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Controversies in the Determination of Death


The President's Council on Bioethics
Washington, D.C.
January 2009

Preface

he question of how—by what standard—an individual should be declared dead is once more a matter of controversy. With this report, the President's Council on Bioethics takes up this controversy and seeks to illuminate the issues at the center of the renewed debate about the inherently perplexing problems of determining human death in an age of life-sustaining technologies. In the following pages, the President's Council examines the main lines of criticism and defense of the neurological standard, and also explores the ethical concerns engendered by the use of the traditional cardiopulmonary standard in the organ procurement practice known as “controlled donation after cardiac death.” In so doing, the President's Council on Bioethics aims to apprise the American public of the contemporary state of the debate and to guide the public's reflections on matters that touch on some of society's deepest human questions.


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