Inside the Heated Scientific Debate to Redefine Who Is Dead

Adam Kovac in Daily Beast:

When drafting legislation, vocabulary counts for everything. Opposing viewpoints were passionately aired over seemingly minute details. Within this group, there were two sides: One believes that death is best described as permanent, and the other believes death is irreversible. The distinction is subtle, but critical. Fans of the latter definition argue that describing death as “permanent” doesn’t go far enough—death is only permanent if no medical action is taken, but irreversible means that nothing can be done. A North Dakota doctor by the name of Christopher DeCock, who opted for the bridge of the original Starship Enterprise as his background, used another fantasy tale to make his fandom of Team Irreversible known. “This isn’t Princess Bride, where you’re mostly dead,” he says, paraphrasing Billy Crystal’s comedic relief healer Miracle Max from the 1987 classic. “Either you’re dead or you’re not dead.”

The debate over when death begins goes back more than half a century. Prior to that, death was rather straightforward: Life ended when the heart and lungs ceased to function. But in 1959, two French physicians, Pierre Mollaret and Maurice Goulon, documented for the first time a phenomenon they observed in two dozen patients who were connected to ventilators.

More here.