The 2022-2023 Bioethics Public Seminar Series will conclude next month with a webinar from Center Assistant Professor Jennifer McCurdy, PhD, BSN, MH, HEC-C, on “How Brain Death Declarations Can Harm, and Why Legal Exemptions Should Be the Rule.” This virtual event is free to attend and open to all individuals.
Wednesday, April 19, 2023
1:30-2:30 PM EDT (UTC−04:00)
Zoom webinar registration: bit.ly/bioethics-mccurdy
According to U.S. law and The Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA), an individual can be declared dead by either cardiac or neurological criteria. The latter, known colloquially as brain death, allows a physician to withdraw patients from medical devices against the wishes of families and other surrogates. While once seemingly settled, the concept of death by neurological criteria has increasingly become a topic of controversy, both technically and philosophically.
This seminar will argue that the UDDA should make New Jersey-style legal exemptions to brain death declaration a national guideline, thus allowing individuals to claim a religious exemption when they disagree that brain death is, in fact, death. Why? Because the concept of brain death is based on a specific eurochristian worldview that is not held in common by many reasonable people in U.S. society. The imposition of those unshared worldviews on patients and their loved ones through force of law causes unjustified and avoidable trauma, furthers epistemic injustices, and generates distrust.
Jennifer L. McCurdy is an assistant professor in the Center for Bioethics and Social Justice within the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. She is a clinical and social bioethicist and educator whose work focuses on understanding and eliminating racial and colonial injustices in contemporary health settings and communities. She currently engages medical students at MSU in curricula related to social context and ethics issues in healthcare. Her current research focuses on brain death policy, Black birthing family safety, and Indigenous representation in bioethics.
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