Images of Death and Dying

  • Wim J. M. Dekkers
Part of the International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine book series (LIME, volume 8)


Though death is usually easy to recognize, it is difficult to define. Perhaps the most significant of all changes which have occurred in the understanding of death during the past decades is the alteration in the definition of death itself. The modern debate about death and dying is mostly about how to define death, how to develop death-criteria, and how to develop tests which are appropriate to meet those criteria (Dekkers, 1995). Nowadays, more than ever before we have to face the saying: “mors certa, hora incerta”: we can be sure of death, but not of the precise moment of death. The need to assess the exact moment of death, for example for transplantation purposes, is greater than ever before. The discussion is centred around distinctions between biological, personal and social death, between death of the organism as a whole and death of the whole organism (including all tissues and cells), between natural death and non-natural death, and between whole brain death, neocortical death and brainstem death. Although in most Western countries the whole brain death definition has become generally accepted and is invariably included in the legislation of those countries where organ transplantation is practised, the question whether brain dead people are ‘really’ dead is still heavily discussed.1


Nursing Home Palliative Care Brain Death Human Existence Christian Faith 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

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  • Wim J. M. Dekkers

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