The Challenge to "Brain Death": Are We Taking Organs from Living Human Beings, and If We Are, Does It Matter?

October 2, 2019
Poster for the panel on Brain Death featuring Alan Shewmon, Patrick Lee, Peter Singer, and Robert P. George

D. Alan Shewmon, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Neurology and Pediatrics, University of California; Patrick LeeProfessor of Philosophy and John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Professor of Bioethics, Franciscan University of SteubenvillePeter SingerIra W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University

Moderated by Robert P. GeorgeMcCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program, Princeton University

A DeCamp Bioethics Seminar

D. Alan Shewmon received his B.A. from Harvard University in 1971 as a music major. After medical school and residencies in pediatrics and neurology, he joined UCLA’s Pediatric Neurology division in 1981, directing its Clinical Neurophysiology Laboratory and playing a key role in its emergence as a preeminent center for pediatric epilepsy surgery. In 2000, Dr. Shewmon moved to Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, a university-affiliated county hospital, where he was appointed Chief of Neurology. He became Emeritus at UCLA in 2011 and retired from the county hospital in 2014, while continuing to be clinically active in the Los Angeles area. Dr. Shewmon's research interests include pediatric epilepsy and neuroethics. On topics related to brain death and disorders of consciousness, he has authored over 40 publications, served on national and international committees, and given numerous lectures at national and international levels. His presentation to the President’s Council on Bioethics greatly influenced its white paper Controversies in the Determination of Death.” Many credit him as the one most responsible for the current critical rethinking of brain-death theory. 

Patrick Lee holds the John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Chair of Bioethics and is Director of the Center for Bioethics at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is the author of three books, Body-Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Politics (2008, with Robert P. George), Abortion and Unborn Human Life (2010), and Conjugal Union: What Marriage Is and Why It Matters (2014, with Robert P. George). He has also written numerous scholarly and popular articles on bioethics and philosophical issues. He is a member of the American Catholic Philosophical Association and the Society of Christian Philosophers. Professor Lee received his B.A. from the University of Dallas, his M.A. from Niagara University, and his Ph.D. from Marquette University. He taught for eleven years at the University of St. Thomas in Houston before joining the faculty at Franciscan University in 1992.

Peter Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. He first became well-known internationally after the publication of Animal Liberation (1975). His other books include: Democracy and Disobedience (1973); Practical Ethics (1979, 3rd. ed. 2011); The Expanding Circle (1981, new ed. 2011); Marx (1980); Hegel (1983); The Reproduction Revolution (1984, co-authored with Deane Wells); Should the Baby Live? (1986, co-authored with Helga Kuhse); How Are We to Live? (1995); Rethinking Life and Death (1996); One World (2002; revised edition One World Now, 2016); Pushing Time Away (2003); The President of Good and Evil (2004); The Ethics of What We Eat (2006, co-authored with Jim Mason); The Life You Can Save (2009); The Point of View of the Universe (2014, co-authored with Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek); The Most Good You Can Do (2015); Ethics in the Real World (2016); and Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction (2017, co-authored with Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek). Professor Singer holds his appointment at the Center jointly with his appointment as Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne, attached to the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies. Professor Singer was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 2012. He is the founder and board chair of The Life You Can Save, a nonprofit that fights extreme poverty. Professor Singer received his B.A and M.A. from the University of Melbourne and his B. Phil. from Oxford University. 

Robert P. George holds Princeton University's McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence and is Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He has served as chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and before that on the President’s Council on Bioethics and as a presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He has also served as the U.S. member of UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST). He is a former Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States, where he received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award. He is the author of In Defense of Natural Law (2001); Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality (1995); The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis (2002); Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism (2016); and co-author of Embryo: A Defense of Human Life (2011, with Christopher Tollefsen); Body-Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Politics (2008, with Patrick Lee); What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (2012, with Sherif Girgis and Ryan Anderson); and Conjugal Union: What Marriage Is and Why It Matters (2014, with Patrick Lee).He holds honorary doctorates of law, ethics, science, letters, divinity, humanities, law and moral values, civil law, humane letters, and juridical science. A graduate of Swarthmore College, Professor George holds J.D. and M.T.S. degrees from Harvard University and the degrees of D.Phil., B.C.L., and D.C.L. from Oxford University. 


The Challenge to "Brain Death": are we taking organs from living human beings, and if we are, does it matter?


McCosh Hall 50

Cosponsored by:

  • University Center for Human Values

Photo Album:

  • Brain death panel
  • Brain death panel
  • Brain death panel