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May 1985

Judaism and the New York State Appeals Court Brain Death Ruling

Author Affiliations

Jamaica, NY

Arch Intern Med. 1985;145(5):952-953. doi:10.1001/archinte.1985.00360050222048

To the Editor.  —On Oct 30, 1984, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that brain-dead patients can be considered legally dead. In part, the court stated "ordinarily, death will be determined according to the traditional criteria of irreversible cardiorespiratory repose. When, however, the respiratory and circulatory functions are maintained by mechanical means, their significance, as signs of life, is at best ambiguous." Under such circumstances, the court ruled, "death may nevertheless be caused to occur when, according to accepted medical practice, it is determined that the entire brain's function has irreversibly ceased."In its decision, the court specified that only a comatose patient without a functioning brain stem shall be considered brain dead. The court cited the criteria for defining brain death developed by an ad hoc committee of the Harvard Medical School and published in a landmark article in the Aug 5,1968 issue of the Journal