The definition of death, brain death in particular, is increasingly important to critical care professionals. There are essentially three definitions of death from a theoretical perspective: the traditional heart-lung definition, the whole-brain definition, and the higher-brain definition. These definitions use different underlying assumptions within their own theoretical framework. The differing definitions and theoretical frameworks have encouraged physiological, philosophical, spiritual, and ethical analyses, which have led to spirited debate throughout the healthcare community and especially in critical care.

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