Pro/con ethics debate: When is dead really dead?

Leslie Whetstine, Duquesne University
Stephen Streat, Auckland City Hospital
Mike Darwin
David Crippen, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center


Contemporary intensive care unit (ICU) medicine has complicated the issue of what constitutes death in a life support environment. Not only is the distinction between sapient life and prolongation of vital signs blurred but the concept of death itself has been made more complex. The demand for organs to facilitate transplantation promotes a strong incentive to define clinical death in a manner that most effectively supplies that demand. We consider the problem of defining death in the ICU as a function of viable organ availability for transplantation. © 2005 BioMed Central Ltd.