HoMe PaGe

Death

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Historically, attempts to define the exact moment of a human's death have been subjective, or imprecise. Death was once defined as the cessation of heartbeat (cardiac arrest) and of breathing, but the development of CPR and prompt defibrillation have rendered that definition inadequate because breathing and heartbeat can sometimes be restarted. This type of death where circulatory and respiratory arrest happens is known as the circulatory definition of death (DCDD). Proponents of the DCDD believe that this definition is reasonable because a person with permanent loss of circulatory and respiratory function should be considered dead. Critics of this definition state that while cessation of these functions may be permanent, it does not mean the situation is not irreversible, because if CPR was applied, the person could be revived. Thus, the arguments for and against the DCDD boil down to a matter of defining the actual words "permanent" and "irreversible," which further complicates the challenge of defining death. Furthermore, events which were causally linked to death in the past no longer kill in all circumstances; without a functioning heart or lungs, life can sometimes be sustained with a combination of life support devices, organ transplants and artificial pacemakers.

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