Given that our concepts and practices relating to death are tied with what we value in persons, as our values change so too will how we relate to death. The philosophical investigation of human death has focused on two overarching questions: (1) What is human death? Any injury that causes brain death injures the entire brain and its function. Such is the case with anencephaly. holds that individuals are dead when they have irreversibly lost all higher functions of the brain (usually defined as all capacity for consciousness) Our definitions of what constitutes death affect not only what we consider to count as death, but also questions of grieving, medical treatment, estate planning, organ donation, and a myriad of other legal and ethical issues. This possibility leads to functionalism—the theory of mind that ‘what makes something a thought, desire, pain (or any other type of mental state) depends not on its internal constitution, but solely on its function …’.48 The functionalist theory of mind looks at the entire mind in this same way—the mind as a whole has certain functions and these functions are what matter, rather than the particular means by which those functions are carried out. In the wake of the 1976 Karen Ann Quinlan case, state legislatures in the United States moved to accept brain death as an acceptable indication of death. As I will discuss later in this paper, death is a value-laden concept, one which we form both explicitly and implicitly. The brain also produces hormones to control individual organ function. The brain, then, is not what matters- what matters are certain functions the brain performs. It is conceivable that in such a world embodied persons may be thought of as the only ‘true’ persons and the gap between biological death and the death of persons will become narrower. 587 (1975); Jeff McMahan, The Metaphysics of Brain Death, 9 Bioethics 91, 102 (1995). J.J.C. Different options were analyzed: the whole brain death formulation (death is the irreversible cessation of all functions of the hemispheres and of the brainstem), the higher brain or cortical death version (death is the irreversible lack of consciousness, due to massive damage to the brain hemispheres) and the non-brain formulations (such as the traditional definition based on the arrest of the circulation of bodily … We are saying that it is now appropriate to behave toward the individual in a different way.38. Abstract. 70 Wimpole Street, London, 2008. In harder cases, total brain death would be sufficient, but higher brain death would be necessary. However, if we were to use a higher-brain criterion for death, more organs would be available for donation given the less restrictive standard of what constitutes death.60 Thus, our definitions of death literally make the difference between life and death for patients in need of organs. 13, 23 (1975). It is this latter possibility in particular that highlights a fundamental problem with identity views such as the total or higher brain conceptions of death. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs licence (, The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada and the Relationship of Public Health Laws to Private Understandings of the Legal Order. In simple cases, cardiopulmonary criteria suffice. 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