Within the UK, there is currently no statutory definition of death. There have been numerous attempts to find a legal definition that the courts may rely upon, the most common of which is brainstem death. A 1995 Journal of the Royal College of Physicians entitled ‘Criteria for the Diagnosis of Brainstem Death’describes this is as the “irreversible loss of capacity for consciousness, combined with irreversible loss of the capacity to breathe” but members of the medical profession and legal scholars continue to debate whether this is adequate. Some of the most notable literature about the suitability of this definition includes Parent and Turi’s piece ‘Death’s Troubled Relationship with the Law’ and Butler-Cole KC and Tankel’s ‘Brain Death and the Law’. The latter article has been the inspiration for my dissertation as it poses the following question in its conclusion: “Should a different approach be permitted for people who do not recognise brainstem death as death for religious reasons?”
In this talk, I will discuss my central thesis that religion does have a part to play in the definition and confirmation of death and to ignore it creates significant problems under Article 9 of the ECHR, the right to religious freedom.
All staff, students, and senior members are very warmly invited to attend the Pudding Seminars. Talks usually last between 20-25 minutes, followed by time for questions, comments and discussion before we finish at 1.50pm, to allow people to get to 2pm appointments. Please note that coffee and cake will be available from 1 o’clock with the seminar starting promptly at 1.15pm. Details of all our seminars can be found at: https://www.newn.cam.ac.uk/research/pudding-seminars/forthcoming-pudding-seminars/