When does life end, and begin?

An individual is dead when he or she “has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem.

lifeanddeathI had this very good friend in college named Lynn, who I started thinking about recently after I read two disturbing news stories. We met in the autumn of 1975, and within a year of that, she and I had made a pact that if either of us were seriously injured or ill to the point where the quality of life was gone, then the other would pull the plug, literally, if necessary. This was at a time before living wills and health care proxies and the like were common.

I was reading this terrible story about 13-year-old Jahi McMath in Oakland, CA, who has been brain dead since December 12, “three days after she underwent a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.” She’s been moved to a facility in New York.

As the article notes:

While laymen tend to use the words “coma” and “brain dead” interchangeably, in medicine they mean very different things.

“Coma” is the broader term used to describe a prolonged state of unconsciousness Continue reading “When does life end, and begin?”