The article is a critical commentary on Peter Singer’s thesis that the brain death definition should be replaced by a rule outlining the conditions permitting organ harvesting from patients who are biologically alive but are no longer persons. Largely agreeing with the position, I believe it can be justified not only on the basis of utilitarian arguments, but also those based on Kantian ethics and Christianity. However, due to the lack of reliable methods diagnosing complete and irreversible loss of consciousness, we should refrain from implementing upper brain death into medical practice. Organs also should not be harvested from people in a persistent vegetative state or from anencephalic children, for similar reasons. At the same time, patients who suffered from whole-brain death should not be artificially sustained; in light of current knowledge they can be declared dead and become organ donors.
My recent article, “The challenge of brain death for the sanctity of life ethic” (Ethics & Bioethics (in Central Europe), 2018, 8 (3–4), pp. 153–165) elicited five commentaries. In this brief response, I clarify my own position in the light of some misunderstandings, and discuss whether the definition of death is best thought of as an ethical question, or as a matter of fact. I also comment on the suggestion that we should allow people to choose the criteria by which they wish their own death to be determined, or their organs removed to be donated to others.