Following the research of Giessen Neurosurgery on primary and secondary lesions of the hypothalamo-pituitary system and the brainstem over a period of more than 30 years, cerebral failure and death does not represent a uniform syndrome but consists of several, well characterized syndromes of irreversible hypothalamo-pituitary, mesencephalic and bulbar failure. The specific syndromes are described in detail. The diagnosis is based on establishing complete irreversible damage of specific vital basal functions such as hypothalamo-pituitary transmission, water- and electrolyte metabolism, temperature regulation, circulation and respiration. The common feature of all types is the irreversible break-down of the complex central neurogenous and/or neurohumoral regulatory system. The permanent and irreversible loss of central regulation and modulation means at the same time the complete cessation of the specific human cortical function, the death of the whole brain. Only in bulbar failure with primary irreversible cessation of respiration artificial respiration can maintain the autonomous functions of the heart for a limited time. It is indicated when organ explantation is to be considered. Complete and irreversible isolated loss of cortical function abolishes the normal human life, but does not mean death of the remaining vegetating human being.