Halachic Organ donor Society, 3926 W. Touhy Ave, Suite #365, Lincolnwood, IL, 60712-1028. Phone: 646-599-3895, Email: office@hods.org

What and When is Death?

This article provides a careful review of the history of brain death from its initial debates in the 1960s through to some contemporary arguments, both medical and philosophical. Rubenstein, a member of the now defunct President’s Council on Bioethics, also defines terms such as ‘heart-beating cadaver’, ‘total brain failure’, and ‘death by organ harvesting’ with an eye toward expanding the understanding of brain death. Rubenstein concludes with an argument that total brain failure leading to the complete loss of drive to breathe should be recognized as a marker of death, thus allowing organs to be donated by “without requiring us to revolutionize the concept of death by considering it anything other than the biological event that happens to all living things.”