The invention of respirators and other life support systems has challenged the traditional definition of death. If the absence of a heartbeat and spontaneous breathing are the signs of death, how do these criteria apply when one is on a respirator? Alongside these technical inventions, the field of organ transplantation continues to develop and has become a significant factor in forcing us to rethink the traditional definition of death, that is, the death of the heart and lungs. The definition of death is further complicated by the fact that dying is a continual and gradual process, although life and death are often considered to be distinct states. For all of these reasons, the definition of death involves an essential interpretive component. Accordingly, this article examines contemporary responses to the new definitions of death, such as whole brain death, neocortical death, and brain stem death. The authors claim that attempts to define death in terms of the loss of a particular function of the brain derive from a mechanical, reductionist, and hierarchical view of life, which has also given rise to the idea that human life begins 14 days after fertilization. It is argued that, from a holistic or organic perspective, the concept of brain death must be treated with caution, although there are pragmatic considerations in support of its use.