Sign In

ACP Position Paper on Determining Death Standards

Core Concepts
Death determination standards clarified and reaffirmed by ACP.
The American College of Physicians (ACP) issued a position paper clarifying death determination standards, emphasizing the importance of transparency and patient welfare. The paper reaffirms existing standards, proposing minor changes to terminologies while highlighting the timeless values of honesty and integrity in medical practice. Key Highlights: ACP's position paper revises terminology from "irreversible" to "permanent" for cardiorespiratory death. Emphasizes the distinction between circulatory and neurologic standards for determining death. Recommends additional education for clinicians and the public on death determination and communication. Stresses the ethical importance of the dead donor rule and transparency in medical practice. Acknowledges diverse views and potential future revisions based on technological advancements.
"Today, irreversible is understood to encompass circumstances in which physiologic functions cannot resume (that is, it is not biologically possible)," the position paper states. "The term permanent is understood to encompass not only circumstances in which physiologic functions cannot resume (that is, are irreversible) but also those in which function will not resume (for example, because resuscitation, although possible, will not be pursued out of respect for the patient's preferences)."
"Permanency is paramount for both." - David M. Greer "Having people be dead in one state and not another is still problematic." - David M. Greer

Key Insights Distilled From

by Marilynn Lar... at 10-06-2023
ACP Revises Standard on Determining Cardiorespiratory Death

Deeper Inquiries

How can advancements in technology impact the determination of death standards?

Advancements in technology can significantly impact the determination of death standards by introducing new tools and tests that may challenge existing criteria. For example, the development of ancillary tests for determining brain death could provide more accurate and reliable results, potentially changing the way death is diagnosed. However, these new technologies must be carefully validated against established standards to ensure their effectiveness and reliability. Additionally, technology can also lead to ethical dilemmas, such as the use of normothermic regional perfusion, which may blur the lines between life and death and require careful consideration within the medical community.

What are the potential implications of having different standards for cardiorespiratory and brain death?

Having different standards for cardiorespiratory and brain death can lead to confusion and inconsistency in medical practice. It may create challenges in determining a patient's status when different criteria are applied to different organ systems. This could result in discrepancies in patient care, organ donation protocols, and legal implications. Moreover, maintaining separate standards may raise questions about the fundamental definition of death and the ethical considerations surrounding end-of-life care. It is essential for the medical community to address these implications and strive for coherence in death determination standards to ensure consistency and clarity in medical practice.

How can the medical community balance the need for a national standard with evolving medical practices?

The medical community can balance the need for a national standard with evolving medical practices by actively engaging in ongoing discussions, research, and collaborations to establish consensus on death determination criteria. By incorporating input from various stakeholders, including professional organizations, ethicists, legal experts, and patient advocates, a national standard can be developed that reflects the latest advancements in medical technology and aligns with ethical principles. Additionally, continuous education and training programs can help healthcare professionals stay informed about evolving practices and ensure adherence to established standards. Flexibility in the national standard to accommodate future advancements while maintaining core principles of patient welfare and ethical integrity is crucial for navigating the complexities of evolving medical practices.