- While it is now well recognized that the main issues relating to brain death1 are conceptual rather than technical or technological, there is still some disagreement regarding the demarcation of the conceptual terrain. An important contribution to this discussion is "Green (Michael) & Wikler (Daniel) - Brain Death and Personal Identity", which attempts to settle the debate by defining brain death2 in terms of a theory of personal identity. This article is important because of its wide acceptance, its bold claim to offer "the first satisfactory rationale for regarding brain death3 as death4," and its outright rejection of the relevance of biological and moral considerations for the question of the definition of brain death5. Green and Wikler claim to provide-or at least to rely on-a correct theory of personal identity and that individuals cease to exist and are dead when the criteria for their personal identity are not met.
- In this article, we argue that even if what Green and Wikler say about personal identity is correct, their theory fails to justify the brain death6 concept of death. To justify the brain death7 view of death, we need to know when an individual is dead, that is, what constitutes the conditions and meaning of death which explain and validate brain death8 criteria, not whether an individual is the same as an individual who existed before. In short, we need to know something about the conditions which are necessary for an individual's being alive as opposed to dead, not whether an individual is still a particular individual or person, Jones
- In the present article we focus on Green and Wikler's positive account of brain death in terms of a theory of personal identity and will necessarily ignore their rejection of biological and moral approaches to the question of brain death. They reject these approaches, particularly the medical or biological approach, because the literature on brain death is remarkably "free of argument" (p. I05n), and deal with reconstructed arguments rather than original sources. We differ somewhat in our interpretation of the medical and moral approaches to the question of brain death insofar as we see the literature as remarkably rife with arguments. On our view, the philosophical task is not one of reconstructing a few arguments, but of clarifying the arguments and classifying them according to their contributions to the issue at hand. In particular, the medical literature needs to be appreciated in terms of the kinds of criteria for brain death that it proffers as well as the clinical tests that it proposes to determine when the criteria are met. However, we will not pursue these matters here, but undertake instead the more modest task of demonstrating the inadequacy of Green and Wikler's ontological approach. This will allow a clear field for further research on the ontological question of brain death which might better accommodate medical considerations.
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