A more recent version of these Law And Death Definitions notes – written by Oxford students – is available here.
The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Medical Law Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:
Law and Death Definitions What is Death?
The legal definition of death o Bland
? Lords Browne Wilkinson, Goff and Keith:
Brain stem death is the definition of death for the purposes of medicine and law o Since B is suffering from PVS and is not brain stem dead, he is therefore alive. o Re C (A Minor) (Medical Treatment)
? This probably therefore means that the legal definition of death will coincide with the medical one,
whatever the parents views, religious or otherwise, are on the subject.
Alternative Definitions o Brain stem death
? DoH's Code of Practice:
Three requirements under o 1. The coma is not due to reversible causes, such as drug overdose o 2. It must be demonstrated that the several components of the brain stem have been permanently destroyed
? This significantly includes the respiratory centre o 3. It must be proved that the patient is unable to breathe spontaneously
The code suggests that two medical practitioners registered for more than five years and are specialists in the field should agree there is brain death, before pronouncing it.
Brain stem death o Caudal lowest part of brain connecting spinal cord with rest of brain o DOH: on diagnosis of brain stem death
? Irreversible causes
? Several component permanently destroyed
? Unable to breathe spontaneously
? 2 experts agree o Why this?
? Shewmon: Loss of integrated whole - if you lose stem then body and brain no longer works together
? Lizza: if anything entails one's death, decapitation certainly does, despite whatever artificial support might be given to sustain one's decapitated body as an integrated organism
Thus if we are willing to accept decapitation as death, we should also be willing to accept physiological decapitation (total brain failure) as death o Objections
? Miller and Truog:
Chicken might still run around when decapitated, but we know its dead really.
How about the pregnant dead?
Buy the full version of these notes or essay plans and more in our Medical Law Notes.