Commentary on "The Incoherence of Determining Death by Neurological Criteria"


This commentary challenges the conclusions reached by Franklin Miller and Robert Truog in their criticism of the President's Council's White Paper, "Controversies in the Determination of Death." I agree with much of Miller and Truog's criticism of the rationale offered by the President's Council for accepting neurological criteria for determining death but argue that they too quickly dismiss the alternative rationale of determining death by neurological criteria-i.e., the destruction of the psychophysical integrity of the human being that occurs when the potential for consciousness and every other mental function is lost due to catastrophic injury to the brain. By focusing on the death of bodies instead of human beings, their view absurdly implies that decapitation would not necessarily result in one's death. Since total brain failure is a form of physiological decapitation, the neurological criterion coheres perfectly well with the ordinary understanding of decapitation as death.