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J Korean Med Assoc > Volume 56(2); 2013 > Article
Journal of the Korean Medical Association 2013;56(2):129-134.
Published online February 20, 2013.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.5124/jkma.2013.56.2.129   
Does our society have the proper understanding of death?
Jin Tak Oh
Institute of Life and Death Studies, Hallym University, Chuncheon, Korea. jtoh@hallym.ac.kr
Recent developments in medicine in our society have drawn attention to various phenomena related to death, such as brain death, cardiac death, vegetative death, euthanasia, death with dignity, near-death experiences, hospice, and suicide. The definition and conception of death is significant because its reductionist determination may bring about a denial or taboo of death and a certain limitation on the modes of life and death. As religious traditions like Christianity and Buddhism and life and death studies show, human death cannot and should not be explained by physical and biological criterion of death like brain death or cardiac death alone. In a society with such a reductionist definition of death there can be no space for a mature culture of death and only a colossal number of miserable deaths like suicide. Therefore, as Kubler Ross argues, death should be defined in terms of considering the continued existence of certain realities as to psyche, spirit, and the meaning of life beyond physical and biological aspects. The medical and legal approach to death is greatly incomplete and restricted in taking into account the physical and biological aspect of death. Thus, it is necessary to precisely and deeply reconsider the definition and understanding of death from a broader and more comprehensive perspective rather than concentrating solely on the physical and biological criterion of death such as brain death or cardiac death.
Key Words: Brain death, Cardiac death, Spirituality, Thanatology
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