Discomforting thought of the day
Actually, the thought is from yesterday, as written by Conrad Black at NRO in an article on…death. This block quote is for background:
…a team of doctors at Harvard Medical School in 1968 redefined death from the irretrievable cessation of the beating of the heart to a complicated idea of the permanent death of the brain, which was entrenched in the Uniform Definition of Death Act of 1981 (UDDA). This essentially replaced science with philosophy and imposed the following criteria for death: absolute unresponsiveness and lack of movement and spontaneous breathing (anything prompted by respirators doesn’t count as evidence of life); no reflexes in eyes, ears, or muscles; flat encephalography; and no change after 24 hours (though there were also warnings of the mimicry of death, especially by hypothermia and drug intoxication).
Wikipedia seems more concise than the UDDA: Death is the term used to describe the cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism.
Back to Mr. Black. Things get more disturbing when the article touches on a number of subjects, to include organ harvesting:
Most [organ donor] patients diagnosed as brain-dead are practically indistinguishable from routinely anesthetized patients. In fact, the practice of anesthetizing organ donors deemed to be brain-dead, i.e., dead and lacking “personhood,” is steadily increasing because of growing concern that they may suffer pain during the profound operations, which often require the rending and opening of the sternum. “Beating-heart cadavers,” as they are called, may be declared dead though they are breathing spontaneously and are vulnerable to pain.
It’s all reminiscent of what Monty Python told us—albeit comically and not tragically—“I’m not quite dead yet.”