Bioethics Blogs

Israel Stinson and the Constitutionality of California Brain Death Law

While Israel Stinson is now dead, his federal lawsuit against the state of California remains alive – at least for now.  

Late last week, the state filed a motion to dismiss the Stinson/Fonseca family’s second amended complaint.

Naturally, the state’s lead argument is that since Israel is now dead, the dispute is moot.  That argument should not win, because this is a classic type of dispute that is capable of repetition yet evading review.  The individuals in brain death disputes will almost always reach cardiopulmonary death before a court decision on the merits.  

The state’s better argument is that the brain death statute is not the problem.  Instead, the Stinson/Fonseca family is really concerned with the medical criteria used to ascertain brain death.  The California law (like all state brain death statutes) does not specify those criteria and tests.  It defers to “accepted medical standards.”  

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.