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Homicide (Defining Death and Life)

This is one of a series of lessons on homicide, and it examines the definitions of "death" and "life" for purposes of the law of homicide. Homicide is a "result" crime in that defendant must have caused the death of another person, and questions necessarily arise regarding when life begins and when life ends. In this lesson, we explore questions related to the definition of death and life in the law of homicide. This lesson is intended for students who have studied these issues in class, and who wish to refine and enhance their knowledge of the topic.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the lesson, students will be able to:
1. Examine the definitions of "death" and "life" for purposes of the law of homicide.
2. Discuss the concept that homicide is a result crime that cannot be committed unless the death of a person results.
3. Contrast the two methods for determining when an individual is considered "dead": (1) heartbeat and respiration; and (2) brain dead.
4. Analyze how modern jurisdictions have modified the common law in various ways regarding an unborn fetus.

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