Medicine: Defining Death

When is a human being actually and legally dead? Until a few years ago, physicians assumed that death occurred after the heart stopped beating. Now most doctors agree that an individual dies when the brain does, and last week the American Bar Association adopted a similar standard. As a guide to determining brain death, many doctors—and the Kansas and Maryland state legislatures—have adopted a set of standards suggested in 1968 by researchers at Harvard University. These require, among other things, that doctors wait at least 24 hours after an electroencephalograph (EEG) has shown...

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