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October 10, 1977

Brain DeathI. A Status Report of Medical and Ethical Considerations

JAMA. 1977;238(15):1651-1655. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03280160045026

Use of neurologic criteria to pronounce death, although accepted by many, has caused controversy among physicians, lawyers, legislators, philosophers, and theologians. The present work attempts to resolve this by accomplishing four objectives. (1) It summarizes scientific information that establishes the ability to determine the state of brain death with certainty on the basis of presently available clinical and laboratory criteria. (2) It shows that the concept of brain death is in accord with secular philosophy and the three major Western religions. (3) It documents the need for legislative recognition that death may be pronounced on the basis of neurologic criteria. (4) It reviews the present status of judicial and statutory law relating to the determination of death in the United States.

(JAMA 238:1651-1655, 1977)