Medical Diagnosis Versus Legal Determination of Death

    Volume 30, Issue 1 (January 1985)

    ISSN: 0022-1198


    Published Online: 1 January 1985

    Page Count: 8

    Gorman, WF
    Visiting lecturer, formerly visiting professor, College of Law, Arizona State University, Tempe,

    (Received 5 March 1984; accepted 1 May 1984)


    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.

    Paper ID: JFS10975J

    DOI: 10.1520/JFS10975J

    ASTM International
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    Title Medical Diagnosis Versus Legal Determination of Death
    Symposium , 0000-00-00
    Committee E30