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Postmodernity and determination of death

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Modern death.
    1. Death within the envelope of rationality.
    2. The precision of the standardized definitions of death.
    3. The academic understanding of death in the United States.
    4. Margaret Lock's approach to the self in determination of death.
  3. Postmodern death.
    1. One key to properly understanding the appeal of the Uniform Determination of Death.
    2. The element of individual choice.
    3. The conscience clause.
    4. The nature of the issue.
  4. Conclusion.

Within nation-state societies, the definition of death becomes a legal concern, with the statutes of the state or the rules of state-approved institutions governing the response technique for the participating citizenry. The transition from embodied person to corpse certainly concerns more than simply the emotions of kin. The broad socioeconomic effects of this transition in the United States impact everything from voting records, to social security accounts, to estate distribution. Determination of death laws impact non-state organizations as well (such as insurance companies in particular). This wide ripple from any death lies beneath the attention given by the state to the determination of death laws.

[...] determination of death becomes primarily a moral and not medical matter? (Franklin & Lock, 2003). The element of individual choice rather than of universal truth pervades the acceptance of brain death as an available diagnostic criterion for organ transplantation. The decision in determining the moment of death is removed from the modern expert (in the form of the medical professional), and offered to the individual or their family. Looking more widely, individual choice for the moment of death in a medical setting not only includes organ donation, but also do-not-resuscitate orders, living wills, and other forms of personalizing the specific determination of death for use with a particular individual. [...]


[...] Regardless of the broader sociological traits that lure the United States toward a multi-faceted determination of death, this phenomenon appears legally beyond the heart/brain duality of the Uniform Declaration of Death Act as well. Several states, including New Jersey and New York, have adopted ?religious exceptions? in their statutes to supplement the medical aspect with an assurance of no ?pronouncement of death in violation of religious belief? (Rosen, 1985). These additions serve as a form of ?conscience clause?: [The clause is] an attempt to allow people to choose an alternative concept of death, and which Robert Olick said ?signals a new direction for the development of public policy governing the declaration of death in pluralistic communities?(Morioka, 2001). [...]

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