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March 5, 2014

Legal and Ethical Responsibilities Following Brain Death: The McMath and Muñoz Cases

Author Affiliations
  • 1O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC

Copyright 2014 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA. 2014;311(9):903-904. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.660

Death is imbued with social, cultural, and religious meaning. From a legal and scientific perspective, however, death is a definable event. A patient’s death makes it possible, even obligatory, to cease treatment and enables the harvesting of organs for transplantation to extend life for others. The clear line between life and death is important because physicians will not squander scarce medical resources or violate medical ethics by imposing treatment after the patient is dead. With a clear diagnosis, family members can also accept the death of a loved one and begin the process of mourning.

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