Deconstructing the Brain Disconnection-Brain Death Analogy and Clarifying the Rationale for the Neurological Criterion of Death

J Med Philos. 2016 Jun;41(3):279-99. doi: 10.1093/jmp/jhw006. Epub 2016 Apr 18.


This article explains the problems with Alan Shewmon's critique of brain death as a valid sign of human death, beginning with a critical examination of his analogy between brain death and severe spinal cord injury. The article then goes on to assess his broader argument against the necessity of the brain for adult human organismal integration, arguing that he fails to translate correctly from biological to metaphysical claims. Finally, on the basis of a deeper metaphysical analysis, I offer a revised rationale for the validity of the neurological criterion of human death.

Keywords: Alan Shewmon; brain death; determination of death; neurological criterion of death.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Death
  • Bioethical Issues*
  • Brain Death*
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Humans
  • Social Values