Karen Quinlan, the American girl who has lain in deep coma for many months, is still 'alive', that is to say, her heart is still beating and brain death has not occurred. However, several other cases have raised difficult issues about the time of death. Dr Skegg argues that there is a case for a legal definition of death enshrined in statutory form. He suggests that many of the objections to a statutory provision on death are misplaced, and that a statute concerning the occurrence of death could remove all doubts in the minds of both doctors and public as to whether a 'beating heart cadaver' was dead or alive for legal purposes.
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