Minds, brains, and hearts: an empirical study on pluralism concerning death determination

Ivars Neiders (Coresponding Author), Vilius Dranseika

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Several authors in bioethics literature have expressed the view that a whole brain conception of death is philosophically indefensible. If they are right, what are the alternatives? Some authors have suggested that we should go back to the old cardiopulmonary criterion of death and abandon the so-called Dead Donor Rule. Others argue for a pluralist solution. For example, Robert Veatch has defended a view that competent persons should be free to decide which criterion of death should be used to determine their death. However, there is very little data on people's preferences about death determination criteria. We conducted online vignette-based survey with Latvian participants (N = 1416). The data suggest that the pluralist solution fits best with the way our study participants think about death determination-widely differing preferences concerning death determination criteria were observed. Namely, most participants choose one of the three criteria discussed in the literature: whole brain, higher brain, and cardiopulmonary. Interestingly, our data also indicate that study participants tend to prefer less restrictive criteria for determination of their own deaths than for determination of deaths of their closest relatives. Finally, the preferences observed in our sample are largely in accord with the Dead Donor Rule for organ procurement for transplantation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-48
Number of pages14
JournalMonash bioethics review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • Brain death
  • Death
  • Death determination
  • Organ transplantation

Field of Science*

  • 6.3 Philosophy, Ethics and Religion

Publication Type*

  • 1.1. Scientific article indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus database


Dive into the research topics of 'Minds, brains, and hearts: an empirical study on pluralism concerning death determination'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this