How Brain Death Declarations Can Harm, and Why Legal Exemptions Should Be the Rule
According to U.S. law and The Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA), an individual can be declared dead by either cardiac or neurological criteria. The latter, known colloquially as brain death, allows a physician to withdraw patients from medical devices against the wishes of families and other surrogates. While once seemingly settled, the concept of death by neurological criteria has increasingly become a topic of controversy, both technically and philosophically. This seminar will argue that the UDDA should make New Jersey-style legal exemptions to brain death declaration a national guideline, thus allowing individuals to claim a religious exemption when they disagree that brain death is, in fact, death. Why? Because the concept of brain death is based on a specific eurochristian worldview that is not held in common by many reasonable people in U.S. society. The imposition of those unshared worldviews on patients and their loved ones through force of law causes unjustified and avoidable trauma, furthers epistemic injustices, and generates distrust.
- Jennifer McCurdy, PhD, BSN, MH, HEC-C
- Assistant Professor
- Center for Bioethics and Social Justice, College of Human Medicine
- Recorded April 19, 2023
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