Is Death Irreversible?

Nada Gligorov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


There are currently two legally established criteria for death: the irreversible cessation of circulation and respiration and the irreversible cessation of neurologic function. Recently, there have been technological developments that could undermine the irreversibility requirement. In this paper, I focus both on whether death should be identified as an irreversible state and on the proper scope of irreversibility in the biological definition of death. In this paper, I tackle the distinction between the commonsense definition of death and the biological definition of death to show that even the commonsense concept of death is specified by biological facts. Resting on this argument, I argue that any definition of death is a posteriori. Thus, irreversibility is part of any definition of death because the actual phenomenon of death is irreversible. In addition, I show that the proper domain of irreversibility in a definition of death is circumscribed by physical possibilities and that irreversibility in the definition of death refers to current possibilities for the reversal of relevant biological processes. I conclude that, despite recent technological advancements, death is still irreversible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)492-503
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Medicine and Philosophy
Issue number5
StatePublished - 14 Sep 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • BrainEx
  • brain death
  • cardiopulmonary death
  • death
  • irreversibility


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