Don Yoder Lecture on Religious Folklife and Folk Belief: Bonnie O’Connor

Thursday, November 02, 6:30 pm–7:30 pm
Pavilion Ballroom

in-person session will be live streamed
session will be recorded and available for later viewing online

Sponsored by the Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section

Dead and/or Alive: ‘Official’ and Vernacular Discourses on Brain Death, Organ Transfer, Belief, Knowledge, Experience, and Health Care Ethics
Bonnie B. O'Connor (Alpert Medical School of Brown University, emerita)

In 1968 a committee of the Harvard Medical School comprising 13 white men (10 MDs, one theologian, one law professor, and a historian of science) published a definition of “Brain Death,” expanding the common definition of death to include new criteria. This presentation addresses assumptions inherent in the committee composition and their definition as these have shaped ensuing decades of official public discourse on death, organ transplant medicine, law, public policy, and bioethics – contrasting these with vernacular responses to and experiences with family members on life support, and recently increasing family challenges to having a loved one declared “Brain Dead.”