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Comment & Response
October 9, 2018

Biological, Legal, and Moral Definitions of Brain Death—Reply

Author Affiliations
  • 1Center for Bioethics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2018;320(14):1494-1495. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.10984

In Reply The perspective presented by Mr Dewar and colleagues raises many interesting philosophical questions about the relationship among science, morality, and law in society. The definition of death intersects with all 3. Scientifically, it depends on the capacity of an organism to maintain an internal homeostatic environment. Morally, it hinges on aspects of neurologic function, such as consciousness and the capacity to relate to others. Legally, it defines the point of transition for many social practices, such as the permissibility of embalming, cremation, burial, the procurement of organs for transplantation, the implementation of wills, or the transfer of wealth through inheritance.