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Death and recent developments in medicine

The solution is aimed at providing guidance and direction to tackle the academic problem presented below:

What recent developments in medicine and society drive the search for a more adequate definition of death? Distinguish the main alternatives available and explain the respective considerations used to support them. What advantages and disadvantages attach to each definition, and what practical difference might it make if we select one or the other? Which definition do you defend, and why? Also, how is this discussion complicated by our increasing knowledge about different states of awareness? Use examples to clarify, including the recent Schiavo case.

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When Socrates said that "the unexamined life is not worth living", he was not thinking medically but rather ethically. Socrates was arguing that we should be able to take charge of our lives as rational beings. This means being able to carry out critical reflections and reasoning. Socrates was in effect arguing that we need to think and think right. Here is an example: He asked his interlocutor what was virtue. The answer came back that virtue was what was pleasing to the gods. Then Socrates riposted thus: is it pleasing to the gods because it is virtuous or is it virtuous because it is pleasing to the gods? In order to be able to answer this question, one needs to be able to think critically. The important issue may really not be the answer but the thinking process itself.

Now to be able to think, one needs, not just to have a mind, but to have a healthy mind. This is where medicine comes into the equation. When Socrates spoke of the unexamined life, he was not talking of life as such but of human life. He was talking of persons. What is a person? The classical definition comes from Boethius: "person is an individual substance of rational nature. As individual, it is material, since matter supplies the principle of individuation. The soul is not person, only the composite is. Man alone is among the material beings person, he alone having a rational nature. He is the highest ...

Solution Summary

When Socrates spoke of the unexamined life, he was not talking of life as such but of human life. He was talking of persons. What is a person?

If the human person is radically different from all living beings, would his death be the same as that of all living beings?

When could a person be said to be dead or alive? How does the answer to these questions throw light on the Terry Schiavo case.

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