Pluralismo en torno al significado de la muerte cerebral y/o revisión de la regla del donante fallecido Pluralism about the meaning of brain death and/or the revision of the dead donor rule

Laguna 21 (2007)
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Since 1968, the irreversible loss of functioning of the whole brain, called brain death, is assimilated to individual’s death. The almost universal acceptance of this neurological criterion of death had decisive consequences for the contemporary medicine, such as the withdrawal of mechanical ventilation in these patients and organ retrieval for transplantation. The new criterion was successfully accepted in part because the assimilation of brain death state to death was presented by medicine --and acritically assumed by most of societies-- as a scientific and objective fact. Nevertheless, many people do not think that the patients suffering brain death are actually dead. We show here that those people are not necessarily wrong. It can be argued that, in fact, the justification of the neurological criterion is not scientific but moral. We outline the thesis that the problem surrounding the vital status of brain dead patients is due to a confusion between factual and normative questions. Furthermore, we claim that the donation of organs and the withdrawal of life-support could be ethically acceptable even if the patients suffering brain death are considered as alive. As an alternative to the dead donor rule, we propose a justification for organ donation of brain-dead patients based on the (moral) concepts of harm and consent : what truly justifies the procurement of organs on those patients is not that they are dead, but that they wish to donate their organs and that, since they have irreversibly lost their brain, they cannot be harmed.

Author Profiles

Alberto Molina-Pérez
Instituto de Estudios Sociales Avanzados (IESA-CSIC)
David Rodríguez
Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario


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