February 27, 2015

Lecture will examine legal questions on death

by Pete Rosenbery

Thaddeus PopeCARBONDALE, Ill. -- A lecture at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will examine the question of when a person is legally dead. 

Thaddeus M. Pope, director of the Health Law Institute at Hamline University School of Law, will present the 2015 John & Marsha Ryan Bioethicist-in-Residence lecture at the Southern Illinois University School of Law Center for Health Law and Policy. 

Pope will address “When Are You Dead? Expanding Objections to Brain Death and Recommended Responses” at 5 p.m., Wednesday, April 15, in the courtroom in the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building.  The lecture is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographer and camera crews are welcome to cover the lecture. To make arrangements for interviews or for more information on the lecture, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communications and outreach, at 618/453-8700.  For the lecture in Springfield, contact Karen Carlson at 217/545-2155.

W. Eugene Basanta, the law school’s Southern Illinois Healthcare professor emeritus and health law and policy center director emeritus, said Pope will examine how the law defines death and the associated implications. 

For several decades, neurological brain death has been legally established in the United States and throughout the world. Yet laws in California, New York and New Jersey require hospitals to continue physiological support, such as a ventilator, and there is an increasing push for similar accommodations in other states. Defining death is, at least in part, a cultural issue. Furthermore, it can have practical consequences for care providers and policymakers, Basanta said. 

For example, a clinician and hospital can deem a patient is dead and move to take them off a ventilator, but then be threatened with a lawsuit by the family if that occurs. “There can be real practical challenges. The more we can do from a health care standpoint; the more technology we have, the more challenges we face,” Basanta said. 

Pope will meet with the ethics committee from the Southern Illinois Healthcare hospitals. On April 17, Pope will discuss futile care and the role that physicians play in a presentation entitled “Medical Futility-Policy Implications,” at the SIU School of Medicine’s South Auditorium, 801 N. Rutledge St., Springfield.  

Pope, an associate professor of law, is chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Law, Medicine and Health Care. He speaks throughout the world and has a blog on futile care and end-of-life treatment. 

This is the 11th bioethicist-in-residence lecture, and the ninth since John G. and Marsha C. Ryan endowed the visiting lecture series. 

Founded in 2006, The John & Marsha Ryan Bioethicist-in-Residence supports an annual residence and lecture by a law or medicine ethics scholar for the SIU schools of law and medicine. The selected presenter visits classes at both schools and organizes interdisciplinary educational activities for students, residents and faculty. The presenter also interacts with students and offers a public lecture on the scholarship as it relates to law and medicine.