TEDxFIU in Review: Elizabeth Price Foley on the definition of death

To the trained eye of Elizabeth Price Foley, life and death aren’t as clear cut as, well, life and death. The professor specializes in constitutional law, healthcare law and bioethics, and has studied life and death extensively. Her findings may surprise you: Life and death aren’t opposites according to the law. In fact, they aren’t even related, legally speaking.

Foley focused on death in her TEDxFIU talk, which asked the audience “When are you really dead?”

This issue comes to the forefront as the demand for organ donation continues to rise. It more important than ever to standardize how and when death is legally declared.

In her thought-provoking talk, Foley gives an overview of death as laid out in the Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA), which has been adopted in some form by all 50 states. The UDDA outlines the types of death but does not specify how they should be applied, and as a result is applied differently from medical professional to medical professional.

Foley argues that standardizing the application of the UDDA will significantly reduce ambiguity regarding death and minimize mistakes. Lawmakers need medical experts, however, to have consensus on the appropriate standards to enact. Until then, there is no easy answer to her question.

Watch Foley’s TEDxFIU talk below:

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