Stuart J. Youngner
Two factors, medical science's growing control over the timing of death and the increasingly desperate need for organs, have led to a reopening of the debate about the definition of death and have forced a consideration of aspects of the determination of death that had never been addressed before. Without the pressing need for organs, the definition of death would have remained on the back shelf, the conversation of a few interested philosophers or theologians. This article examines some new questions raised by medical technology and the frantic search for new, morally acceptable sources of human organs over the past thirty years. This examination concludes that death itself is a social construct and that, in a pluralistic society such as ours, a conclusive definition of death or determination of the moment of death is out of the reach of both medical science and philosophy.