Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Redefining Death

"We try to think of organisms as engaging in a work of self-preservation. To be living is to be engaged in that work. To die is to cease to be engaged,"
I love bioethics. I think it's the most intellectually compelling field in science. The problem is this: It is unethical to remove organs from patients who are considered "alive". Alive used to mean a stopped heart, but with modern technology, it's possible to keep a heart beating in a clearly dead body. So now "alive" means the brain is functioning. But it appears as though some brain functions carry on in what we would also call dead bodies from a humanistic moral perspective.

So, do we severely cut back on organ transplants, resulting in many more deaths, because of a technical definition of "alive," or compromise medical ethics by removing organs from "living" people, or do we sit our asses down and think like we've never thought before to find a satisfying philosophical way to fulfil our moral requirement, while still managing to maximize the lives saved by organ transplantation? What do you think the bioethicists did?

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