The irreversibility of death: reply to Cole

Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 1993 Jun;3(2):157-65. doi: 10.1353/ken.0.0053.


Professor Cole is correct in his conclusion that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) protocol does not violate requirements of "irreversibility" in criteria of death, but wrong about the reasons. "Irreversible" in this context is best understood not as an ontological or epistemic term, but as an ethical one. Understood that way, the patient declared dead under the protocol is "irreversibly" so, even though resuscitation by medical means is still possible. Nonetheless, the protocol revives difficult questions about our concept of death.

Publication types

  • Comment
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Death
  • Death*
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Hospitals, University / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Hospitals, University / standards
  • Human Body
  • Humans
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / standards*
  • United States
  • Withholding Treatment