Defining Death: Organ Transplantation and the 50-Year Legacy of the Harvard Report on Brain Death

January 23, 2018

April 11, 2018 – April 13, 2018 all-day
Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at Harvard Medical School
77 Avenue Louis Pasteur
Boston, MA 02115

In 1968, a report from a Harvard Medical School committee proposed the concept of “brain death” as a new criterion for determining human death, making possible the procurement of “living” organs from bodies diagnosed as “dead” by neurological criteria.

This conference will:

  • Explore how the Harvard report impacted the development of organ transplantation
  • Examine the scientific and philosophical foundations for determination of death by neurological or circulatory criteria
  • Discuss the controversial case of Jahi McMath from the perspectives of neurology, bioethics, and society
  • Debate alternative views about the ethics of organ procurement
  • Consider the impact of new technologies—such as gene editing and 3-D printing—that could radically alter these debates by eliminating the need for human organ donors


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