Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2006


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Health Care Ethics


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

David F. Kelly

Committee Member

Aaron L. Mackler

Committee Member

John W. Hoyt


Brain Death, Definition of Death, Donation After Cardiac Death, Ethics, Organ Donation, Transplantation


Human fascination with transplantation has been portrayed in mythology and legend as well as in art and literature throughout history. It has both horrified and captivated our collective conscience and has progressed, in a relatively short time period, from science fiction to a modern accomplishment that can improve longevity and enhance quality of life.

The primary obstacle for transplantation is no longer scientific in nature but is predominantly one of supply and demand and carries with it attendant ethical concerns. Specific to this work is the question of whether a particular method of organ procurement known as Donation After Cardiac Death procures organs from the newly dead or from the imminently dying. Since the normative rules that guide transplantation require that one may not be killed for or by the removal of one's organs determining the nature of death is of paramount importance.

Accordingly, the primary question concerned herein is whether Donation After Cardiac Death donors are dead at the moment of organ recovery. This work focuses on the conceptual underpinnings of why a person is said to be dead according to particular definitions and when specific criteria and tests are fulfilled. Much attention is devoted to exploring why the irreversible loss of cardio-respiratory functions or the irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain signifies death and whether these two criteria represent distinct types of death or if they instantiate the same overarching definition.

Transplantation saves lives and is a social good that society ought to continue to support. The aim of this dissertation is not to denigrate the field. On the contrary, if donation is to thrive we must ensure that our definition and criteria for death are coherent and that the methods for procurement operate accordingly.