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October 17, 1977

Brain Death: II. A Status Report of Legal Considerations

JAMA. 1977;238(16):1744-1748. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03280170038023

PART I of this article established the scientific validity of current clinical and laboratory criteria for determining complete destruction of the brain or brain death. It also showed that total destruction of the brain constitutes a determinant of death, which is in accord with secular philosophy and the three major Western religions. In part II, legal issues that arise from use of brain-related criteria to pronounce death are considered.

NEED FOR STATUTORY RECOGNITION OF BRAIN DEATH  The fact that physicians can recognize total and irreversible destruction of the brain on the basis of clinical and laboratory criteria is accepted and commonly utilized in many areas of the world. The need to make such pronouncements is based primarily on the requirement of society to respond appropriately to two recent advances in medical technology. The first is the hardware that can artificially maintain lung and heart action in the absence of spontaneous