“Brain death” apparently not so dead as some would like

Be sure to read what I have posted in the past about PVS patients, people in a “Persistent Vegetative State”.  HERE

Especially, I urge you to look at this article.

Read everything and THINK about end of life decisions.

And remember…

I have written many times about planning for the end of your life, especially about having the last sacraments.

From the American Thinker:

Myth of ‘brain death’ exposed in Michigan

“Brain death” sounds so scientific when uttered by a medical authority, an indication that the real life of a patient is over.  But it is a judgment call with so little scientific basis that (via the New York Post):

A 14-year-old girl wounded during the shooting rampage in Kalamazoo, Mich., was declared brain-dead and about to have her organs harvested when she suddenly showed signs of life, according to a new report Monday.

The girl remained hospitalized in critical condition and “fighting for her life,” ABC News said.

Michigan State Police Lt. Dale Hinz told ABC that the girl’s family said Bronson Methodist Hospital was preparing to remove the girl’s organs for donation when she squeezed her distraught mom’s hand.

The girl squeezed her mother’s hand again when the mom asked if her daughter could hear her, Hinz said.

She also gave thumbs-up signs with both hands when a doctor asked her to give him a thumbs-up if she could hear him, Hinz said.

Keep in mind when you read about “brain death” that hospitals dread the prospect of expensive long-term treatment to maintain the lives of severely injured patients with brain injuries, while the prospect of organ harvesting offers the opportunity to perform glamorous transplants and help patients with good prospects of recovery.  This is not to say it is exclusively a financial consideration, but rather that perspectives are influenced by these considerations.

“Brain death” is a term that is entirely misleading in its pretense of finality, as this tragic case in Kalamazoo proves.  It is time to euthanize its use.

Go to confession.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. The Masked Chicken says:

    One problem is that people in a minimally conscious state (MCS) can be misdiagnosed as being in a PVS. It is not just the lure of harvesting the organs that lets these two conditions get switched, but that it takes sophisticated fMRI tests to uncover the MCS. Back when Terri Shiavo was being killed, I had just written a paper on the origins of laughter in the brainstem and it was very clear from her videotaped interactions with Fr. Frank Pavone that were available on the Internet, that she was processing data (the neurologist who examined her knew nothing about laughter and brushed off her reactions as being caused by to the steel paddles attached to he brainstem for deep brain stimulation – this was nonsense, as her laughter would have been untracked, random gelatic seizures – it, clearly, wasn’t). Myself and another humor neuroscientist in Germany, whom I contacted (they had just written a review article for Nature Neuroscience) agreed with me that Shiavo was, probably, in a minimally conscious state, based on the fact that her laughter tracked with external events. Unfortunately, even though 40 neuroscientists begged for an fMRI to be done, the judge had, already, issued his final report and would not back down. I had hoped to get tracked laughter to be included in legal judgments of vegetative states (the German neuroscientist had, already rescued one person by this method), but the observations got lost in the circus that followed. The observations are easy to make and cost almost nothing. Triggered laughter is different than gelastic seizures, which can occur due to damage of the brainstem, in being externally triggered and containing mirth.

    Brain death, as a concept, is really a junk diagnosis (or at least only a tentative one). Truth is, we have no reliable method of determining when death occurs, at this time. There has to be some functional definition for legal purposes, but one wonders how many Catholic bioethicists were consulted in creating the definition of brain death.

    The Chicken

  2. robtbrown says:

    When a patient goes on the heart/lung machine (heart surgery), brain waves are flat.

    Still, medicine needs to posit some indicator of death.

  3. capchoirgirl says:

    The comments over there are really special. As an organ recipient, I can tell you there is nothing “glamorous” about a transplant.
    Brain death has an incredibly long list of criteria that must be met in order for it to be actual brain death. A quick google search will show you that (for example, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2772257/). If hospitals were *really* doing what this article posits, and what the uneducated commenters were thinking, then there wouldn’t be more than 100,000 people on the national waiting list, with 21 of them dying every day–which is up from 18 people in 2005, when I was on the list.
    The organ donation system in the U.S. is entirely altruistic. Therefore, it has to all be totally above board, or the system would never work.

  4. MattH says:

    The media and many medical providers are sloppy in their terminology regarding all of these types of issues. Unfortunately, this is one of those issues where sloppy terminology results in fatal mistakes.

    For that reason, the phrase “brain death” should probably be rejected, as the quoted article says. An individual is either dead or they are not. In some (probably limited) situations, use of neurological criteria for determining death may be reasonable. However, those criteria will only result in ethically acceptable outcomes if they are applied rigorously. I recommend the position papers from the National Catholic Bioethics Center (http://www.ncbcenter.org/document.doc?id=842) in the US, or from the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in the UK (http://bioethics.org.uk/Ontheethicsoforgantransplantationfinal.pdf, pages 15-23 especially) for a treatment of that problem from a Catholic perspective.

  5. Marissa says:

    It is worth noting that PVS and brain death are not the same though they are often conflate.

    There are times when the person who is to be harvested must be anaesthetized. When the knife goes in, there can be elevated heart rate and blood pressure as well as crying. It is disconcerting to the surgical team so they anesthetize.

    Finally, from a theological perspective, it would seem that the soul is still there, the person is still a human being, treat them with dignity.

  6. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Capchoirgirl – I don’t think anybody thinks that most hospitals are careless or heartless about organ harvesting. But there do seem to be cases, more than there used to be, where doctors are eager to declare death when the patient is still quite alive. The potential intersection with organ donation is scary, and causes bad rumors. Some of them are probably true. In some countries they are certainly true.

  7. majuscule says:

    I was told that if the person is really and truly dead, it’s too late for the harvested organs to be any good.

  8. The Masked Chicken says:

    Of course, we should be pouring money into adult stem cell research. It holds the key to getting rid of organ donation, altogether.

    The Chicken

  9. Mr. Graves says:

    Cap choir girl: I have a relative on an organ transplant list who has waited for what seems like forever. It’s very heartening to hear your experience and know you received the cadaver organ. From my relative’s experience, there are many, many safeguards in the living donor process, e.g., speaking privately to the person to make sure there’s no coercion or money exchange involved, etc. However, pro-life sites have been speaking for years now about the pressure on doctors to get donor consent from families of BD patients. Even mainstream news outlets are beginning to cry foul about “brain death” and organ harvesting. http://nypost.com/2012/09/26/organs-taken-from-patients-that-doctors-were-pressured-to-declare-brain-dead-suit/

    This is not to imply that the motives for trying to get these organs are less than altruistic or that the doctors don’t really believe the patients are BD — far from it! But there are ethical and moral concerns that need to be addressed in the harvesting of organs from BD patients, even if everyone involved has only the best possible motives.

    And now a request: I’ve mentioned several times that DS and I are living in Belgium. Someone we know contacted us recently. She has a family member with late-stage cancer who has chosen doctor-assisted euthanasia. We ask for prayers for this family, that the person won’t make a decision he will eternally regret.

  10. capchoirgirl says:

    That only applies to cardiac death, majuscle. As in, the heart isn’t pumping blood to the rest of the body. That’s when the organs start to deteriorate. For example, my donor died of a brain aneurysm, so she was on life support measures while they ran tests, etc. That enabled the heart to keep pumping and the lungs to keep “breathing”, even though her brain was no longer functioning as a result of the aneurysm.
    In general, it seems like there is a lot of misinformation about organ donation, which can easily be rectified. This is especially true in the comment box at this article.
    Chicken: There are many things being done in the research area, especially with 3-D printing. But that’s all still quite a ways off. Organ donation itself is still quite new in medical terms.

  11. New Sister says:

    When getting my last will done/notarized at the JAG a few years back, I was shocked by how the other people there (we do them in groups & witness for each other at one table), mostly retired military couples, were basically guilted into opting for ~ “do not revive if ‘brain dead’ or sustain by artificial means” & donating their organs. The JAG lawyer posed the question, ~”…do you want your kids using up your estate to keep you alive if ‘brain dead’?” ALL of them (except me) shook their heads “no” — poor things. These were your average/decent Christian retirees – grandparents, but grossly misled & uninformed about what they were consenting to!

  12. introibo says:

    Many thanks for your post, Fr. Z. Paul Byrne M.D. has challenged “brain death” for years. Readers not very familiar with the topic should check out the American Life League (http://www.all.org/learn/organ-donation/), in which the great pro-life humanitarian Judie Brown challenges “brain death” and organ harvesting. With all due respect to Capchoirgirl, caveat emptor.

  13. Marissa says: There are times when the person who is to be harvested must be anaesthetized. When the knife goes in, there can be elevated heart rate and blood pressure as well as crying. It is disconcerting to the surgical team so they anesthetize.

    Then that person is still alive, and it is immoral to harvest his organs, which he is still using. A dead person does not need to be anesthetized.

    The brain is not the thing that animates a body; the soul is. It strikes me as a materialist myth that machines can take the place of the soul.

    I took myself off the organ donor list years ago. I don’t think they wait until you’re dead to harvest your organs. In the case of vital organs, I don’t think they can wait.

  14. capchoirgirl says:

    Anita Moore, they HAVE to wait. It’s part of the law. My surgeon had to wait until multiple doctors signed of on my donor–she had to be really dead, as they say in the Wizard of Oz. This is all on the record. I’ve seen the paperwork from my transplant. It’s extensive.
    Think about it for a second–if hospitals all over the world were taking people’s organs from patients that were ALIVE, there would be a huge uproar. No hospital will allow it because there’d be a huge amount of bad press, and lawsuits out the wazoo.
    And yes, you can wait, but after the person is declared and removed from the life support machines, yes, you do have to work quickly.
    This isn’t China, guys. We’re not harvesting organs from Falun Gong members.

  15. Elizabeth D says:

    For what it’s worth, the National Catholic Bioethics Center has a FAQ on brain death that does back up Capchoirgirl. https://www.ncbcenter.org/page.aspx?pid=1285

    But it may be very difficult in some circumstances to tell the difference between someone with truly NO brain function (not even brain stem) and someone who has not irreversibly lost all brain function.

  16. chantgirl says:

    Capchoirgirl- I would have more faith in our hospitals and doctors if docs still had to take the Hippocratic oath and if hospitals did not allow abortions to be performed. From what I have read, the origins of brain death terminology were intertwined with the desire to pitch organ donation.

  17. MrsMacD says:

    Of course if evil things like starving a disabled person to death, or killing tiny innocent babies, or promoting sodomy are allowed by law then they must be okay? Right? Wrong. When your heart stops, then you’re dead, until then you’re alive. It’s simple. Taking the beating heart out of a person is killing them. Can you ‘harvest organs’, without killing someone? If you have two good kidneys, you can give one, above and beyond that it’s murdur or suicide. I’m very sorry if this hard truth causes pain to anyone. Certainly it’s not your fault that the medical system is messed up.

  18. Imrahil says:

    Pope Benedict has taught:

    It often happens that organ transplantation techniques take place with a totally free act on the part of the parents of* patients in which death has been certified. In these cases, informed consent is the condition subject to freedom, for the transplant to have the characteristic of a gift and is not to be interpreted as an act of coercion or exploitation. It is helpful to remember, however, that the individual vital organs cannot be extracted except ex cadavere, which, moreover, possesses its own dignity that must be respected. In these years science has accomplished further progress in certifying the death of the patient.

    [He was speaking of little children immediately before, hence “parents”. Naturally the same applies for adult donors to their personal consent.]

    (Speech on organ donation at the Pontifical Academy for Life, november 2008)

    If the definition of brain death was unapplicable, he would have needed to say so in that context (yes… the ex silentio again… but there’s more:) and he couldn’t have said that “science has accomplished further progress in certifying the death of a patient”. We all know how science certifies the death of the patients in questions: by brain death. If the whole concept was, in his opinion, wrong from the onset, he couldn’t have praised it here – although he does say (in the following sentences) that the area is to be subject to further diligent study.

    So, brain death, if its criteria are correctly applied (see the Chicken’s comment above), has been accepted by the Church’s magisterium as, for all moral purposes, death.

    However, organ donation needs the explicit consent of the donor, a consent which cannot be extracted via moral pressure as if it were a moral duty, or in any other wise; it’s a supererogatory good deed, not a duty. Also, organs, by their dignity, must not be sold or trafficked.

  19. jacobi says:

    A difficult one. Death is when the soul separates from the body. In a brief search of Catholic literature I have not found a definition of when this is or how to recognise this point .

    Detectable brain activity must be considered, now exceedingly sentsitive. It is a tool we now have in what is essentially, in absence of a theological definition, a matter of judgement

    Withdrawal of treatment deliberately to kill is intrinsically wrong .
    Maintaining the body to prevent decay is a separate issue .
    Intent is important in both cases.

    Having said that as an amateur, I shall leave it to the theologians, but one hopeful suggestion I trust, they should consider at what point Christ died on the Cross.

  20. Kathleen10 says:

    Terry Shiavo was murdered by the state and thank you Chicken for mentioning her. In the video of her that was shown she was animated and responsive. She appeared to visually track her family with her eyes, and smile in response to them, and there is a light to the eyes that is not measureable, but we all know it when we see it. She was “there”. That was a different case altogether, a horrible one, because she was not on a ventilator but only needed to be tube fed and hydrated as usual. She was starved and dehydrated to death, which is slow and agonizing. All the while her family was there offering to care for her, and her husband, who had moved on to a new live in ladyfriend, was still able to deny her family that privilege and the law, the state of Florida, allowed it to happen. We wouldn’t treat a dog or cat that way.
    As far as organ harvesting, what a great thing to do, but my trust for government, hospitals, doctors, is much smaller than it used to be. To hear that people cry when the knife goes in, I find that horrifying. The other day there was a discussion about how long after death was the soul around. Some say one half hour and some say one hour. From the discussion here it sounds like that might be considered too long to wait.

  21. HeatherPA says:

    My 15 year old brother was in a serious car accident 10 months after my father died from complications of ALS.
    He was declared brain dead as soon as he was received at children’s hospital, and the pressure to donate all his organs was immediate and extremely intense.
    My mother was not able to process all that was happening, as well as being told over and over that he matched 5 people for various organs that would die within 24 hours if she didn’t sign the consent. She signed and they wheeled him off.
    I will never, ever forget that time as long as I live, and all due respect to CapChiorGirl, not a single person in my household is an organ donor or ever will be, unless it’s a living donation such as a kidney or liver. To this day I am haunted by what ifs, and I have talked extensively to my confessor about my helplessness and guilt.

  22. Legisperitus says:

    The only sure sign that the soul has left the body is putrefaction, which inconveniently makes the organs unusable. “Brain death” is a fiction that allows live organs to be legally harvested in a manner that causes the death of the donor.

  23. robtbrown says:

    capchoirgirl says:

    That only applies to cardiac death, majuscle. As in, the heart isn’t pumping blood to the rest of the body. That’s when the organs start to deteriorate.

    The heart has to be pumping good blood. If the lungs are failing, the blood is not being oxygenated. Organs will not be nourished and begin to die.

  24. faustinamaria says:

    Last October I went to our Right to Life Banquet. We were blessed to have Bobby Schindler as the guest speaker. He told us that in many states withholding food and water is considered artifical life support. Before you have a living will done please keep this in mind because no one can override this once you put it in writing.
    For the life of me I don’t get people that think it is okay to kill someone i.e. organ transplants, it is so obvious that getting organs from a dead person is futile. I am glad that the above poster benefited from organ donation but the other person didn’t fare as well. I wonder if the donor gave consent? I will NEVER EVER give consent.
    Everytime I hear “braindead” or ” quality of life” I cringe. I don’t allow it and I correct the person right away.

  25. andia says:

    This is why I am vehemently against organ donation. Why in the world is one person’s life so much more important that they deserve my organs more than I do?

    Organs from a truly dead person are no good…so you’re gonna steal my life to keep someone else alive who is more worthy? Yeah I’ll never consent to that.

    Although I suspect we will see the day when this is a requirement, not an “option”.

  26. robtbrown says:

    Jacobi says,

    Withdrawal of treatment deliberately to kill is intrinsically wrong .

    I’m afraid you’ve muddled the question

  27. medicus1997 says:

    I am a Catholic physician, and I like to think of myself as very orthodox and traditional in my views. I have never commented here before but these types of discussions always pique my interest. I am certainly not a neurologist, but I do work in the adult medical (as opposed to surgical) world and I not infrequently assist in providing care for critically ill or dying patients in the inpatient setting. I’ve practiced in 3 different large cities, and in a variety of hospital types – private non-religious, academic/university, and the VA system. There are certainly unsavory characters in every profession, and if you or a loved one have encountered one of these ilk in the medical world that is unfortunate and I am sorry.

    I would like to make one observation from my time in practice and then present a scenario about which I would love to query the in-house theologians. First, in all of the hospitals at which I have either trained or worked it was forbidden of the medical team (i.e. the group of physicians and consulting physicians actively treating the patient) to have any direct contact with the local organ donor services. In every new physician orientation for each new hospital I work at, it has been stressed to me, as it was in medical school, that at no point is the discussion of possible organ donation to be brought up with the patient (rarely possibly) or family unless the family directly asks for information about the possibility or process. In the settings in which I work, if a patient is critically ill and the prognosis is looking grim, the nursing staff (guided by firm and somewhat objective criteria) will contact donor services and provide them with generic non-identifiable information regarding the patient to see if they would potentially be capable of any form of donation (info might be: female in her 70’s with end-stage kidney disease and worsening sepsis). The outcome of that interaction is recorded and nothing further is done until the patient dies, in our setting usually cardiopulmonary death or less frequently duly-certified brain-death (some organs can be usefully donated after the heart stops beating although the condition of the patient leading up to that point will impact their utility and the time during which they can be used will be reduced). At that point or depending on the circumstances shortly-before, the family will be approached by a member of the social work team (never the medical team) to ask if the family would be interested in donation (if any was an option for the patient in question).

    I was actually just discussing this with a nurse at work the other night. We read these stories about families that are pressured to immediately terminate care and the nurse and I were just incredulous at where this is actually happening- as neither of us have ever witnessed it. Now, to be clear, I am not stating that this type of behaviour does not happen, just that I, luckily, have never been a party to it. Also, and I do not mean this to sound uncharitable, I wonder if some of these stories are perhaps misconstrued to some extent due to their incredibly sensitive and emotional context and their being related often by the media or well-meaning family who are not themselves members of the medical profession. The modern ICU is an overwhelming experience for all who enter it- patients, family, and even the medical staff. I strive to have excellent, clear, and down-to-earth discussions with my patients’ families and yet I am always amazed at how we fail or emotions prevent us from getting our true meaning across to loved-ones. Even after some of what I thought were my best family discussions I’ll be shocked to get drastically different information provided back to me the following day by well-meaning, intelligent, and attentive family members. I am not sure what the true answer is in these reported cases but the reports and my own experiences leave me saddened and curious.

    Finally, a quick scenario for input from the crowd if there are any still reading here: Let’s suppose an elderly patient is admitted with a serious illness. They are treated aggressively and their condition unfortunately worsens. Again, despite the best treatments available they begin to suffer complications from their original illness and eventually the person who walked into the hospital emergency department is now in an ICU, on a ventilator, profoundly unconscious (i.e. they do not respond in any obvious fashion to stimuli from family or caretakers alike), and they require multiple powerful medications in order to maintain a blood pressure which is compatible with life. The family assembles from various locations and together decide that their dear loved one would never want to be ‘kept alive’ in this fashion with the potential for possible suffering and the chance of any recovery without divine intervention being nonexistent. At the request of the family, the medical team withdraws some of the aggressive interventions they have put into place- perhaps some of the medications to support blood pressure are weaned off, or the patient is taken off of the ventilator. This scenario plays out in every hospital around the country on a daily basis- with much greater frequency than the often discussed young healthy person brain-death cases. The medical team in these scenarios may give some additional medication to ensure this person isn’t suffering to an extreme degree- but also, it is not common practice to give doses so high that they would ensure or greatly hasten death. We wait. Often the patient proceeds on the natural trajectory of the disease and they die. Sometimes, we are all amazed and they somehow rally and make an unexpected turn for the better.

    I would be curious to see how the visitors here view the above scenario. At the very least, discuss it with your family because, as I said, this is an all too often outcome of what might start out as a routine illness especially for those advanced in age. Finally, despite the many failings of those in the medical profession I would ask that you keep us in your prayers. I consider it, as Father Z often says, both a duty and an honor to pray for all of my patients especially at the moment of death- although I generally do so privately as in this modern age some families would be offended and complain to the authorities.

  28. bdouglass says:

    While it is indeed good that the organ harvesting program in the US is objective and altruistic, that seems a red herring. The question is, is the person alive? If they are, then it’s objectively and altruistically managed murder.

    None of the tests that are done to declare a person brain dead are able to answer that question, simply put. A person is dead when their soul leaves the body, unfortunately we don’t really know when that happens and by the time we are certain of it, the organs/tissues are mostly useless. However, if a person’s body is showing signs of life, like wound healing and stress responses and circulation, then they sure seem to be animated.

    From what I understand, the notion of a person being brain dead comes up because doctors were worried that transplanting would get them charged with homicide. I think they were worried because it’s true. Of course in our day, the soul has no reality in legal or most scientific discussion, so that point is moot. But for those of us who aren’t insane, the lack of concern for the sole question that matters “is there a human person with a soul?” isn’t a part of the discussion should give us pause.

    We know from cases like this girl and others that there are at least a number of people who are fully aware of what is going on as they are being prepared for organ donation and having their organs cut from their body, at least for a while. It’s a terrifying reflection to make on their fate. Knowing that through a decision of their own or worse by a loved one that they will shortly have their organs one by one cut out of them and die disemboweled possibly without anesthesia. The devils must love the attack angles they can get in with those people’s final hours.

  29. robtbrown says:

    Medicus 1997,

    Generally, the moral MO in dying patients is that there is no obligation to heroic measures, but nourishment and hydration are not considered heroic measures.

    Do you know how to tell at a funeral whether the diseased died of cancer? The family looks worse than the corpse.

    My father died of cancer, fibrous histiosarcoma that began in a hamstring, at his home on a Wednesday. If memory serves, I gave him morphine on the previous Monday, about the same time I thought: If this doesn’t end soon, I might go first.

  30. robtbrown says:

    Also: Intending to kill a patient is not the same as letting a dying patient go. If someone is taken off the respirator with the intention of killing him, something else would be tried should the patient survives. Maybe smothering with a pillow.

  31. The term “brain death” was invented in the 60s to legalize vital organ harvesting. Up to then, death was associated with the heartbeat, along with many other tests for vitality that are no longer performed today.

    The Church’s traditional teaching is that death is concerns the heart.

    And true, a beating heart is intrinsic to vital organ harvesting- without the beating heart, in a true cadaver, the organs are worthless.

    Dr. Byrne has done invaluable work getting out this truth.

  32. jhayes says:

    Elizabeth D wrote: For what it’s worth, the National Catholic Bioethics Center has a FAQ on brain death that does back up Capchoirgirl. https://www.ncbcenter.org/page.aspx?pid=1285

    Thanks for posting the link. For those who don’t know the NCBC, its board includes eight bishops. Bishop Morlino used to be Chairman; it’s now Bishop Aymond.

    They say that determining death by “brain death” is consistent with the Church’s teachings as long as “brain death” is accurately determined by the criteria they list in te FAQ.

  33. Capchoirgirl, I don’t think the public’s level of outrage is a reliable indicator whether something is taking place or not. In an age when the unthinkable quickly morphs into the commonplace, I am not confident we could count on the public being outraged even if an organ donor were killed live on CNN.

  34. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear medicus1997,

    You wrote,

    “We wait. Often the patient proceeds on the natural trajectory of the disease and they die. Sometimes, we are all amazed and they somehow rally and make an unexpected turn for the better.”

    The problem is the waiting part. I was going to write about non-equilibrium physiological processes, but I think I will just condense the discussion to three words: Karen Ann Quinlan – remember her?


    She lived for nine years after the respirator was removed. The longer one waits, certeris paribus, the likelier one is to be certain that the person is dead.

    The Chicken

  35. andia says:

    medicus1997 wrote— “We wait. Often the patient proceeds on the natural trajectory of the disease and they die. Sometimes, we are all amazed and they somehow rally and make an unexpected turn for the better.” Not always.
    My aunt went into the hospital for pneumonia…she was recovering well, and in fact, ready to be released the next morning. My mom was visiting her when the dr’s made the statement she was well enough to go home. Mom drove home –not even a half hour from the hospital ( I go to church next door, I can’t say an entire rosary with a recorded app between our house and there, so what 15-20 minutes at most) before mom reached our house I got a call that Aunt Carol was dead and that I “needed to make a decision about her organs” One minute she’s healthy enough to go home and with in a half hour she’s an organ donor? There’s something smelly there — and it ain’t the North 40.
    Catholic teaching is supposed to be NATURAL death…. I can’t help but wonder how we justify organ donation under any circumstances.

  36. Unfortunately the end does not justify the means. This is a typical excuse for performing stem cell research, collecting baby parts, in vitro fertilization, abortion for the sake of the life of the mother, contraception for the happiness of the parents, etc.
    The fact that people we know and love, even ourselves, may benefit from vital organ donation should not distract us from what this organ donation and brain death subject really entails.

    On top of that, the other consideration is, why would anyone want to risk having themselves murdered in some small chance that their organs would be harvested while they are still feeling and living? Stories abound of organ donors waking up or coming to just before harvesting. This risk convinced me not to be an organ donor at first.

    Now I am learning more about this ghoulish practice legalized in the 60s. And there is no way I will ever agree to be a vital organ donor.

  37. Mr. Graves says:

    Please bear with me while I point out that LIVING donation (of a kidney or small portion of liver) is not subject to these moral concerns — and makes a world of difference to the recipient. It is, without exaggeration, a new lease on life for that person and his/her family, who are often crippled with medical expenses and overwhelmed by constant treatment schedules.

  38. Supertradmum says:

    A long time ago, after listening to Father Ripperger addressing some doctors on this point, I wrote on how brain death is not death. Fr. Ripperger’s talk is enlightening and he basically said that rigor mortis is the only sign of death. Death is not determined by one of the vital organs but by all…

    When the soul leaves the body, the organs die, ergo, live organs, live person.

  39. robtbrown says:

    Actuallu, the soul leaves the body when the organs die. In living things the form and matter are intrinsic causes. The soul is the formal cause of the body, not the efficient cause

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