Death and Dying


New understandings of biology as well as new treatments and imaging capacities raise difficult questions about death and dying. In its biological sense, ‘death’ is a vague term that in different contexts marks the loss of metabolic exchange in the entire organism, a part of the organism, an organ, a nest of cells or a cell. ‘Death’ is also a distinctly social term with significant moral implications. The key terms involved in the ethical controversies involving death and dying are standards for declaring death, the minimally conscious state, the concepts of killing, letting die and the doctrine of double effect.

Keywords: brain death; death; doctrine of double effect; dying; euthanasia

Further Reading

Battin MP (1994) The Least Worse Death: Essays in Bioethics on the End of Life. New York: Oxford University Press.

Battin MP, Rhodes R and Silvers A (eds) (1998) Physician Assisted Suicide: Expanding the Debate. New York: Routledge.

Beauchamp TL (1996) Intending Death: The Ethics of Suicide and Euthanasia. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Caplan AL, McCartney JJ and Sisti DA (eds) (2006) The Case of Terri Schiavo: Ethics at the End of Life. Amherst: Prometheus Books.

Culver R and Gert B (1982) Philosophy in Medicine. New York: Oxford University Press.

Dworkin RM (1993) Life's Dominion: An Argument about Abortion, Euthanasia, and Individual Freedom. New York: Knopf.

Iserson K (1994) Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies? Tucson, AZ: Galen Press.

Jennett B (2002) The vegetative state. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 73 (4): 355–357.

Jennett B and Plum F (1972) Persistent vegetative state after brain damage: a syndrome in search of a name. The Lancet 299 (7753): 734–737.

Kamm FM (1993) Morality, Mortality, volume I: Death and Whom to Save from it. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kamm FM (1996) Morality, Mortality, volume II: Rights, Duties, and Status. New York: Oxford University Press.

Khushf, G. 2010. "A matter of respect: a defense of the dead donor rule and of a "whole‐brain" criterion for determination of death." Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 35 (3):330–364.

Miller FG and Truog RD (2012) Death, Dying, and Organ Transplantation: Reconstructing Medical Ethics at the End of Life. New York: Oxford University Press.

New Jersey Law Revision Commission (2013) Final Report Relating to New Jersey Declaration of Death Act. New Jersey Declaration of Death Act, N.J.S.A. 26: 6A‐5.

Rachels J (1975) Active and passive euthanasia. The New England Journal of Medicine 292 (6): 78–80.

The Ad Hoc Committee of Harvard Medical School (1968) A Definition of Irreversible Coma. JAMA 201 (6): 337–340.

Shepherd L (2009) If that ever Happens to Me: Making Life and Death Decisions after Terri Schiavo. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Shewmon DA (2001) The brain and somatic integration: insights into the standard biological rationale for equating “brain death” with death. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 26 (5): 457–478.

Shewmon DA (2004) The ABC of PVS: problems of definition. Advanced Experimental Medicine and Biology 550: 215–228.

Veatch R (1993) The impending collapse of the whole‐brain definition of death. Hastings Center Report 23 (July–August): 18–24.

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Rhodes, Rosamond, Hitt, James M, and Nair‐Collins, Michael(Nov 2016) Death and Dying. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003484.pub2]