>Steve McGrew (stevem at comtch.iea.com) wrote:
>: I think a lot of the problem people have with the concept of
>: alive" may come from the idea that there is a "spirit" that enters leaves
>: body upon birth and leaves upon death: an on/off kind of quantity called
>: "life". In the context of current medical, biological, biochemical and
>: cybernetic knowledge, that idea is nonsense. If "life" is to be something
>: science deals with, it must be measurable, quantifiable-- and probably not a
>: binary quantity.
>> Death does have a binary feel to it. Say a person is walking down the
>street -- mind full of ideas, the muscles all working together, eyes
>taking in the environment... and then, a bullet through the brain.
>Instant death. It doesn't do much good to urge, "Well, the e coli are
>still churing away, the hair is still growing, etc." The whole person is
>dead -- irreversably dead. All those coordinated efforts have been shut
>down, never to be restarted.
> Looks awfully binary to me.
So what do you call someone who ends up in a coma. Entirely brain dead with
massive damage, but still breathing and metabolising food? They could last a
long time on a life support system, but would certainly starve to an
unambiguous death without it.