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A need for definition: a matter of life and death for human embryos

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posted on 22.11.2019 by Serhiy A. Shurpyak, Anthony PH Walsh, David J. Walsh, E Scott Sills

A recent IMJ commentaryon brain stem death criteria summarised ethical and technical issues concerning “end of life decisions”, and we concur that physicians should have competence in eliciting the proper sequence of brain stem signs in clinical practice. However, a truly comprehensive dialogue on the definition of death should address another question that confronts IVF clinics in Ireland each day—when does a human embryo die? Despite the enormous social and political energy focused on “right to life” issues over recent decades, the death of a human embryo remains a sadly forgotten topic. As Dr Murphy indicated1, the introduction of brain stem death criteria in 1967 recognised permanent loss of consciousness and spontaneous breathing after the inactivation of essential human neural elements. But our IVF clinics and allied research facilities are responsible for human life well before any discrete neurological system has developed. For practitioners and scientists engaged in the care of these tiniest of “patients”, a relevant definition of death should not be neglected.

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This article is also available at http://archive.imj.ie//ViewArticleDetails.aspx?ContentID=3889

Published Citation

Shurpyak SA, Walsh APH, Walsh DJ, Sills ES. A need for definition: a matter of life and death for human embryos. Irish Medical Journal. 2009;102(7):235.

Publication Date

01/07/2009

Publisher

Irish Medical Organisation

PubMed ID

19772013

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