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Freedom and Limits$
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John Lachs and Patrick Shade

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823256747

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823256747.001.0001

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The Element of Choice in Criteria of Death

The Element of Choice in Criteria of Death

Chapter:
(p.231) Fifteen The Element of Choice in Criteria of Death
Source:
Freedom and Limits
Author(s):

Patrick Shade

John Lachs

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823256747.003.0017

In distinction from objective facts, whose existence is independent of human activity, and conventional facts whose existence depends wholly on our thoughts and actions, Lachs describes choice-inclusive facts as an intermediate or hybrid kind of fact that arises when “human choice and action build on preexisting things or conditions to create a novel object.” He contends that those who defer to scientists to articulate the criteria of death treat it as a merely factual affair, overlooking the fact that death's significance is in part its social consequences. By contrast, Lachs argues that “locating death along the continuum of organic decline involves a social choice”; indeed, death is best understood as a “biologically based social status.” When thinking about criteria for determining what is “dead,” we thus need to consider relevant social factors, such as the way technologies affect decisions about the costs and benefits of keeping alive those in organic decline. In keeping with his pluralism, Lachs endorses an individually centered, multiple-criterion approach that allows for a good death.

Keywords:   Definition of death, Choice, Pluralism

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