Traditional Criteria

With all the controversy surrounding neurological criteria for death, the traditional criteria related to heartbeat and breathing have remained largely unchanged and undisputed except in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's program in which organs are taken from certain patients as soon as possible after expected cardiopulmonary death (Lynn). No major legal or ethical concerns have been raised about the traditional criteria for death. Medical organizations around the world have not felt it necessary to establish specific clinical criteria for the diagnosis of death that are based on the irreversible loss of cardiac and respiratory functions. The medical consultants to the President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research recommended that the clinical examination disclose at least the absence of consciousness, heartbeat, and respiratory effort and that irreversibility be established by persistent loss of these functions for an appropriate period of observation and trial of therapy ("Guidelines for the Determination of Death"). However, these consultants recommended no specific length of time for this period of observation.

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