More than 50 years after the publication of the Harvard Committee Report that sought to define death according to whole-brain function criteria, this document continues to generate a diversity of opinions regarding how death should be defined. The various perspectives show that doubts linger regarding when brain death should be diagnosed, the criteria to pinpoint the occurrence of death, and the alignment of medical practices seeking to establish human death with these criteria. This study reviews and assesses three perspectives that have made significant contributions to the debate. Attention is also given to definitions of death that depart from the recommendations of the Harvard Report. Appraisals of various arguments lead to the conclusion that changes in the definition of death have resulted from advances in knowledge of human biology, medical technology and diagnostic techniques. A commentary is included on expediting the time of death with the view of organ donation.


Harvard Report on brain death, whole-brain death, circulatory-respiratory death, higher-brain death, organ donation

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