Neither person nor cadaver
Kaufman (Sharon)
Source: Aeon, 06 February, 2020
Paper - Abstract

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  1. This paper raises a lot of interesting points, but I can’t but think that it’s a bit of a jumble.
  2. The paper’s title points out the dilemma – the brain-dead individual is obviously not a mere corpse1 as it is still in many senses “alive2”. The problem is “just” that it cannot maintain itself without a functioning brain-stem and is not – nor ever will be – conscious, so can never have what matters3 to it.
  3. There are – of course – many disputes, most notably between the “right to die” and the “right to life” parties. Also, whether some minimal form of consciousness might be possible for brain-dead individuals.
  4. There’s a presumption that drain-dead individuals are “persons4” whereas – strictly speaking – any individual with no hope of achieving consciousness cannot be such.
  5. There are further subdivisions of minimally conscious individuals, which Kaufman – maybe mockingly – suggests are rather confusing ontological categories of person.
  6. The author claims that the whole notion of brain-death was motivated by the desire to have transplant-organs “on-tap” and was the brain-child of the medical transplant and insurance industries.
  7. No-one seems to worry about just what it would be like to be an individual “locked in” were they actually conscious in any way, without any of the goods of life and maybe many of the ills. Relatives seem to imagine they’d be happy having their hands held and being read to.
  8. The paper deals with several of the causes celebres:-
    Wikipedia: Jahi McMath case
    Wikipedia: Karen Ann Quinlan
    Wikipedia: Terri Schiavo case
  9. … to be continued …


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