“Challenges and Perspectives on Determining Criteria for Human Death”

Alberto Molina, post-doctoral researcher at IESA (Institute for Advanced Social Studies) and member of Filolab, will present the seminar titled “Challenges and Perspectives on Determining Criteria for Human Death”, on Thursday June 3rd. In this online seminar, Alberto Molina will introduce the recent evolutions in the debate around the determination of human death and its social dimensions. He will also present some of his recent contributions to this debate, including two of his articles (one of them which has been peer-reviewed and approved but has yet to be published), as well as the general outlines for the Spanish Research, Development and Innovation project he offered to carry out at the IESA.

In support to the current relevance of the issue, the author stated that “a few days ago a Declaration about the revision of the US law that defines the criteria for death was signed by more than a hundred researchers from different countries. This Declaration, leaded by University of Southern California neurologist Alan Shewmon, arrives at a critical point, as the applicable law in the majority of the US states since 1981 is currently being evaluated by the governmental Uniform Law Commission who could recommend its alteration”.

The suitability of the death criteria, especially the neurological one (the so-called “brain death”), has divided the experts for decades. This is an ongoing debate and, so far, the only consensus is that the current criteria for encephalic death must be revised. These inevitable changes could have a significant legal impact in the US as well as in other countries such as Spain.

A debate around the involvement of families in the determination of death has recently arisen. On the one hand, as a response to the pressure of some social groups, the American Academy of Neurology took a stance on the “accommodations” that relatives are asking for. Families request that their loved ones not be declared dead through the neurological criteria or that, if they are, they continue having breathing support. On the other hand, some experts argue that the apnea test used to determine encephalic death should not be performed without prior consent of the family. This is one of the claims that belongs to the aforementioned declaration. If this is the case, patients as well as their families could choose, up to a certain point, which death criteria applies to them. This is already possible in places like Japan or New Jersey.

Alberto Molina Pérez is a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for Advanced Social Studies (IESA-CSIC). He used to be a researcher for the “Juan de la Cierva Formación” program at the University of Granada. In 2017, he got his PhD in Philosophy through the Autonomous University of Madrid. He carried out research fellowships at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (France) and at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland). His main research areas include the models of consent for cadaveric organ donation and the criteria used to determine human death. Regarding the first area of research, he tries to understand how models of consent work both legally and practically, especially when considering the family’s wishes. He also focuses on the study of the knowledge and attitudes of the general public towards these models. As for his second one research area, he uses an epistemological perspective to analyse the medical and legal criteria for human death determination and, in particular, to analyse how the concept of function comes into play in the aforementioned criteria.

Anyone outside of IESA who is interested in attending the seminar must email comunicacion@iesa.csic.es to receive the link of the meeting.

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