The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 10, Issue 3, Autumn 2010

Nicholas Tonti-Filippini
Pages 491-514

Secularism and Loss of Consensus about the Diagnosis of Death

This paper explores the determination of death as it pertains to ethical decisions about organ and tissue donation. The Church holds that death can be diagnosed on the basis of evidence showing the complete cessation of all brain function and the corresponding loss of integration of the body. On the basis of evidence presented by D. Alan Shewmon and others, influential secular bodies have rejected the integrationist view, arguing instead for a much more liberal view that a loss of spontaneous breathing and loss of consciousness are sufficient for a diagnosis of death; that is, some brain function may continue after death. New laws and guidelines in various countries are based on this mode-of-being view. The author defends the Church’s integrationist view, arguing that loss of all brain function means loss of integration in the intercommunicative sense that pertains to the separation of the life principle, or soul, from the body in death. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 10.3 (Autumn 2010): 491–514.

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