Yale researchers have restored cellular activity to pig brains hours after the animals had been killed at a slaughterhouse. A new technique for treating heart attacks is to cool the body, but that causes brain function to disappear completely. Certain drugs also cause brain function to cease. The question becomes, “When is someone dead?”
The current medical definition of death is when a person has no eye movement, no pain response or gag responses, and does not attempt to breathe independently. The “World Brain Death Project” reported on these facts and definitions in the August 3, 2020, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Their report carried suggested recommendations for doctors to follow.
Dr. Paul Graham Fisher at Stanford said, “This is only a first step. Complex cultural, religious, and even legal forces thwart a simple and universally accepted definition of brain death.” In 2013 a girl named Jahi McGrath was brain dead after a tonsillectomy. Her parents refused to accept that fact and, with support from religious and civil-rights groups, moved her to New Jersey. That state allows religious objections to any diagnosis. There she spent more than four years on a ventilator, finally dying of liver failure in June of 2018.
We have gotten to the point in medicine where it is not easy to answer the question, “When is someone dead?” From a biblical standpoint, death is when the soul leaves the body and returns to God, but how do you determine that?
When there is no quality of life and no hope of physical recovery, a Christian may desire no heroic medical attempts for resuscitation. If you do not believe in God and the soul, then clinging to life is all you have. The question of when is someone dead becomes much more of a concern. Either way, for those left behind, letting go of a loved one is always hard. But for Christians, accepting death is much easier.
— John N. Clayton © 2020
Reference: Science News, September 12, 2020, pages 2, 8, & 9.