I find a festering wikipedia article, and a mother-lode of pseudo-science babble.This week I got a bee in my bonnet about the BBC using the phrase "technically dead" in a decidedly non-technical, and arguably fucking stupidly incorrect way:
"Bolton midfielder Muamba was technically "dead" for 78 minutes after collapsing in Wanderers' FA Cup tie at Tottenham last month."(BBC Sport http://is.gd/f7SQFB)
In order to determine whether I had completely misunderstood the whole premise of being dead, I was forced to actually do some research.
There are obviously a number of professional organisations that have domain specific usages of words derived from "dead", "death", "die" etc. Comedians have one and I'm sure there is a joke here about cloth and Analine for chemists but I'm not going to bother with it.
It is obviously possible to be declared dead in a legal sense, while still very much living in Vegas.
But I don't think that is the sort of "technically dead" that BBC Sport were getting at given that the man had just suffered a cardiac arrest in front of 60,000 people.
Indeed, the premature execution of Fabrice's will and distribution of estate was the least of his problems, during those 78 minutes.
BBC Sport were fairly clearly going with the idea that there is a medical sense in which Fabrice could be considered dead, and the fact that it wasn't quoted, meant that they were going balls out with it some true-as-in-true sense, rather than true as in somebody-said sense.
So after a little bit of reading and googling, and opening enough tabs to make firefox run like a busted mule, I started to see the term "clinical death" appearing here and there, with supporting links to the wikipedia article of the same title, which offers the following definition;
"Clinical death is the medical term for cessation of blood circulation and breathing, the two necessary criteria to sustain life" ("clinical death", wikipedia, 2012)Now this wikipedia article has been around since 2004, has been fairly heavily edited and has a bunch of references listed, so I was kind of hopeful at this point that I have found the source of this "technically dead" stink-bomb and could get back to ranting about other stuff.
However the single reference this wikipedia article on "clinical death" provides for its use of the definition above is to a fairly esoteric publication "Encyclopaedia of Death", and the strength of the reference is probably best dismantled by repeating a quote from the single review of "Encyclopaedia of Death" on Amazon,
Although to be clear, I am not saying that I didn't enjoy the Encyclopaedia of Death, or that I have anything against it, indeed there is a particularly good chapter on Haitian zombies, but it is just that this is not a sufficiently quality reference work to use as a single source for this crucial definition of a purportedly technical term."Upon further reading, there is much to be gained from this book. My interest in death is from a spiritual perspective, as I explore a shamanic path." - Amazon review, "Encyclopaedia of Death"
So regarding this wikipedia article on "clinical death", at this stage in the research (i.e. yesterday), I am kind of puzzled. The situation seems to be one of 2 things.
Either the best case;
a) Despite much effort going into expanding on the wikipedia article "clinical death" as a period during which a patient may well be resuscitated, before final biological death; that none of the editors of the wiki article thought to provide references to some authoritative work defining this use of "clinical death".
b) that this wikipedia is a stinky source of pseudo-scientific effluent which is pouring downstream into the 177 (18/Apr/2012) wikipedia articles that link to or reference this not-dead-yet-still-somewhat-dead definition of "Clinical Death" and into the enormous number of informational/reference/answers site which re-purpose wikipedia content verbatim.
I'm hoping a) but fearing b) ;-)
But a google search of the exact phrase:
"Clinical death is the medical term for cessation of blood circulation"gives 7360 results, some of which I can see from the summary are using the wikipedia article to substantiate their own use of the "clinical death" in the not-dead-but-still-dead form.
Anyway, I am going to give up on this blog post here before I get bored, but I am going to continue to blog-up on this subject, and my next step was to look at the types of pages that link to the "clinical death" wiki-article, and you might get a sense of where I am going with this when you see how many have "near death experience" related terms in the article title.
Some notes on how the definition of legal and medical death has changed in the US over the years.
The Harvard criteria (1968)
There were two new criteria, however, that were not measured in the past: a flat reading on the electroencephalogram (EEG) and lack of blood circulation in the brain. "The Harvard criteria," as they were known, soon became the dominant approach to defining death.
Uniform Determination of Death Act 1980
The uniform determination of death Act added the term "irreversible cessation" to the previous definition, which was subsequently endorsed by the American Medical Association and the American Legal Association..@TODO check
Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School to Examine the Definition of Brain Death. "A Definition of Irreversible Coma." Journal of the American Medical Association 205 (1968):337–340.