Brain Death and Personal Identity
Green (Michael) & Wikler (Daniel)
Source: Philosophy and Public Affairs, 1980, 105-133
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    We provide a definitive affirmative answer to the philosophical question of whether a brain-dead patient is dead. The account differs radically from any others. Alternative rationales have relied exclusively on either biological or moral criteria to support a redefinition. Our account relies exclusively on "ontological" considerations. Applying the most viable theory of personal identity, we argue that the necessary conditions for the brain-dead patient to be the individual jones are not fulfilled, so that jones, having ceased to exist, is dead. This ontological account, which relies only on common conceptual intuitions, provides the first good rationale for the current massive legal and medical redefinition of brain-death as death. We finally argue that even those unpersuaded by our theoretical account should, for moral reasons, favor progressive legislation that admits brain-death, since it avoids slippery slope difficulties that the alternatives face and would be immune to abuse. (Edited)

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