(Received 5 March 1984; accepted 1 May 1984)
Published Online: January
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This summary of the medical and legal descriptions of death notes that the physician makes a medical diagnosis of death, the physician then makes the legal pronouncement of death, and that statute or the courts make the legal determination of death. Medical diagnosis of death follows either the common law standard of total cessation of cardiac and respiratory function or the medically accepted standards of brain death, the latter being based on irreversible loss of brain function. Cessation of cardiorespiratory function inevitably causes brain death; similarly, brain death inevitably causes cessation of cardiac function. The common law definition of death has been redefined: death is brain death which inevitably causes cessation of the cardiorespiratory functions. Legal determination of death, since the advent of cadaver organ transplantation, has been made by case law, which is briefly summarized, or by statute in most jurisdictions. The history of the Uniform Determination of Death Act is briefly summarized; this observer joins those recommending adoption of this Act. A table gives the rules or statutes that determine death in 36 U.S. jurisdictions.
Visiting lecturer, formerly visiting professor, College of Law, Arizona State University, Tempe,
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