Ethics review: Dark angels - The problem of death in intensive care

David W. Crippen, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Leslie M. Whetstine, Duquesne University


Critical care medicine has expanded the envelope of debilitating disease through the application of an aggressive and invasive care plan, part of which is designed to identify and reverse organ dysfunction before it proceeds to organ failure. For a select patient population, this care plan has been remarkably successful. But because patient selection is very broad, critical care sometimes yields amalgams of life in death: the state of being unable to participate in human life, unable to die, at least in the traditional sense. This work examines the emerging paradox of somatic versus brain death and why it matters to medical science. © 2007 BioMed Central Ltd.