Defining ‘Death’

When is the right time to declare someone clinically ‘dead’? Nicholas Tonti-Filippini, in a new book, states that current definition of ‘death’ used in Victorian hospitals is at odds with community expectations, he told The Age:

“A new standard has taken hold in intensive care units in which the crucial aspect is absence of consciousness”

Clinically, his means that death can be declared even when the mid-brain and other ‘basic’ regions of the brain are still functioning – ensuring blood flow,  and other basic signs of life (although not breathing).

Spokespeople for the clinical criteria stated that the definition preferred by Toni-Filippini – total loss of brain function  determined by blood flow- was unsubstantiated, illogically strict and would put patients in need of organ donation at risk.


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