Death Criteria: Social, Religious, and Clinical Considerations on What It Takes to Die
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Advancing medical technology in the twentieth century has blurred the line between certain death and potential life. Patients who would face imminent death without support may now be maintained for a period of time. Efforts to define death according to criteria began in 1968 with arguments for neurological criteria for death. Since then, brain death has become a stage in bioethics for discussions of what constitutes life and what it takes to die. A declaration of death carries social, spiritual, and clinical importance, however defining death requires an examination of what criteria must be met in order to declare death in a clinical setting. A death criterion is a social construct created by people and informed by religion that demonstrates an attempted understanding of what death is and how it may be recognized. Clinicians benefit from a better understanding of death and how patients view death by providing more meaningful care and respectful treatment of such a delicate yet universal topic.