Death Criteria: Social, Religious, and Clinical Considerations on What It Takes to Die
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.