Lights out: a new reckoning for brain death

January 17, 2014

When I set out to write The End, my starting point was the question, “what is death?”. I thought it would be a simple question to answer but it turned out to be the most complex, the most challenging, and the most divisive question to answer of all.

Entire conferences are convened and book volumes written on the definition and diagnosis of death. It makes a mockery of the assertion that nothing is as certain as death and taxes (and we know how true that is of taxes too).

In this article in the New Yorker, psychotherapist Gary Greenberg examines some of the latest cases forcing doctors, lawyers, ethicists, philosophers, lawmakers and most importantly, loved ones, to examine our beliefs and practices around how we define death.

It has been said that organ donation is the only thing driving our need for a solid, unwavering definition of death, but this article shows that there are plenty of other scenarios in which a clear answer on whether someone is dead is desperately needed. Read it here.


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At 2013 Festival of Dangerous Ideas, Dr David Celermajer, Dr Peter Saul and The End author Bianca Nogrady dissected, diagnosed and debated death in an attempt to work out where we went wrong with death and how we might be able to fix it. Watch it here.

Death: what are your choices

Death is a lot like birth. Sometimes it's a peaceful, even beautiful event that goes according to plan. Sometimes it's a horrible bloody mess that is utterly beyond all control. Most of the time, it's a bit of both. We have this idea that death is something that just happens to us. It's true, you will, at some point, die, and that is not subject to negotiation with any earthly power. But that doesn't mean that we are powerless in the face of death. Some of us can actually have a lot of say in the kind of death we have. Read more.