Feeds:
Posts
Comments

From the Britain’s The Daily Mail comes another story of a “miraculous” recovery by a patient who was declared brain dead by the attending doctors.  Of course, organ donation has a starring role.

They were told there was no chance of their son surviving after he suffered devastating injuries in a car crash.

But Steven Thorpe’s parents refused to give up hope – despite four specialists declaring that the 17-year-old was brain dead.

Convinced they saw a ‘flicker’ of life as Steven lay in a coma, John and Janet Thorpe rejected advice to switch off his life support machine.

They begged for another opinion – and it was a decision that saved him.

A neurosurgeon found faint signs of brain activity

And of course, the link to organ donation:

‘The doctors were telling my parents that they wanted to take me off the life support. The words they used to my parents were “You need to start thinking about organ donations”.

Yes, of course the doctors wanted the family to be thinking about organ donation.  I guarantee someone of the staff at the hospital started their own thinking about organ donation within minutes of the EMT arrival of a brain injured patient.

This could be a photo of hospital organ donation administrators...or a pair of vultures.

Steven is now 21, a graduate and clerical trainee.  Despite losing use of his left arm and “extensive reconstructive surgery to his face” including having both his nose and eye socket rebuilt, Steven says he considers his survival as “a full recovery” and is very grateful that his parents were adamant to bring in another opinion.

The hospital issued a statement to The Daily Mail,

‘The injury to Steven’s brain was extremely critical and several CT scans of the head showed almost irreversible damage.

‘It is extremely rare that a patient with such extensive trauma to the brain should survive. We were delighted to see Steven recover.’

The article does not state whether the hospital told Steven’s parents, as they urged them to donate ‘dead’ Steven’s organs, that he had “almost irreversible damage.”  When a grieving family is told to start thinking about organ donation, they think their loved one is dead, not almost dead.  But time and again, stories like this show us that to an unfortunate number of medical workers, “almost dead” = “dead dead”.

Dr. Piper, the General Practitioner whose involvement saved Steven’s life notes, “I am astonished with the outcome but one worries that this may happen more often than we know.”

I’m worried too.

h/t to Lifesitenews whose own article on this story includes several references to similar recent “miraculous” recoveries.  Furthermore, they have a dozen similar articles linked at the bottom of their post.  Educate yourself and check it out.

 

Alessandra Stanley, NYT TV critic recently reviewed the new HBO series Girls, which she writes is the “much anticipated comedy about four single women in New York.”  I have not and will not be watching that show but I found Ms. Stanley’s review of it rather enlightening.  What she finds to be the theme of Girls is that “[t]he economy fluctuates, neighborhoods blossom or decay, but men never cease to disappoint.”

Some 40 years after the sexual revolution, all this sex, immorality, and “freedom” for women has failed to improve the lives of young women at all!  Basically, Stanley declares the sexual revolution and feminism to have been an absolute unmitigated failure;  well, okay, she doesn’t actually declare that, but it is really her point:

Lena Dunham’s much anticipated comedy about four single women in New York, which starts on Sunday night, is worth all the fuss, even though it invites comparisons to Carrie Bradshaw and friends, and even though it incites a lot of dreary debate about the demise of feminism. There are obvious parallels between “Girls” and that earlier HBO series, but the theme of female friendship and romantic disappointment stretches back long before, all the way to the early 1940s and Mary McCarthy’s first novel, “The Company She Keeps.”       

One reason that “Girls” is unsettling is that it is an acerbic, deadpan reminder that human nature doesn’t change. There was a lot of sex in the ’60s, but not much sexual revolution. For all the talk of equality, sexual liberation and independence, the love lives of these young women are not much more satisfying than those of their grandmothers. Their professional expectations are, if anything, even lower.

That’s right, feminism is dead and despite all the sexual escapades, the lives of women have not improved.  Based on this television show, the lives of twenty-something women are unsatisfying, humilating…in fact, downright debasing.  The characters include the lead, Hannah who is described by Stanley as “unpleasant in ways that are only occasionally endearing” and a “parasite sponging off her parents,” and Jessa who “is a sexual free spirit but not particularly joyful.”  These girls are being portrayed as having all the fruits of the women’s movement, being freed from the expectation of marriage and motherhood they are free to pursue careers, relationships without commitments, and self-interested hobbies and leisure activities.  Why then are the young women of Girls so unpleasant, selfish, unambitious and unhappy?  Could it be that the fruit produced by the radical feminist agenda is not as sweet as we have been (repeatedly) told?

Perhaps becoming self-aware halfway through her review, Ms. Stanley admits that Girls portrayal of modern femininity might be seen as “a cautionary tale” but cannot bring herself to admit in print that this apparently accurate portrait has it’s underlying roots in the failure of the feminist movement and the sexual revolution.  Instead, she backs off her previous indictment and then takes a swipe at those of us who see and call the failure for what it is.  She sniggers:

The depiction of slacker life in New York, which includes tattoos, drugs, casual sex and abortions, is presented with wry humor, but it could easily be interpreted as a cautionary tale written by the religious right: the lifestyles of these modern women, untethered to responsibility, faith or morality, are parables that could scare Amish youth away from Rumspringa and wayward Mormons back into their temple garments.       

Har har, see what she did there?  She admits that all the drugs sex and abortions “could” be viewed as an indictment of the modern hedonism, but only by weird anti-cultural sects like Mormons and the Amish; you know, the “religious right”.  No rational religion would condemn all this sex and unhappiness, and the only good Christian for the Left is one that is shacking up with their significant other.  Only the fringe folks like you and me get all uptight about commandments and moral living.  I can hear her sniggering at her own cleverness, because of course nothing works better for the liberals like dismissing legitimate worries over the effects of immoral societies as dangerous fringe thinking.

One can guess what Ms. Stanley would make of the teachings of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, in which he correctly predicted the effects of contraception on the relationship between men and women. 

Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

I don’t know if Ms. Stanley as read Humanae Vitae, but maybe the writer and star of Girls, Leah Dunham has because the “liaison”-the, er, sexual hookup- between the lead character Hannah and a character named Adam is described by Stanley as “debasing”:

Adam lets her visit his apartment for sexual gratification — his own — and ignores her desires; most of his sexual fantasies seem borrowed from video games and porn videos. He is just as callous about her feelings…

Pope Paul VI predicted the outcome decades ago, and was vilified, and shamefully much of the vitriol was from the clergy and laity of the Church.  However, he was right.  Contraception and the freedom of the sexual revolution did not advance the cause of women.  We have become things, objects, tools.

Here we have a cable series that is being described by people who profess to know these things as “gritty”, an “honest romp the through New York City’s social landscape [sic]“, one Huffington Post critic going so far as to compare her twenty-something woman writer experience point by point to that of the Girls main character.  I will assume that the HBO show is then, basically reality for many 20-somethings and that makes me sad for them.  In a world in which these girls can have attachment-free sex at any time, can pursue careers and self-interest leisure activities freed of the burdens of matrimony and motherhood…well, aren’t they supposed to be happy?  Didn’t they get what they were promised would buy them happiness?  Based on Girls, it would seem not.  As Ms. Stanley of the NYT portrays it, these women seem to be selfish, debased, joyless, ambitionless, and unsuccessful. 

But what do I know?  I am a cave woman, expected to be barefoot and pregnant by my Neanderthal husband.  At least, I’m pretty sure that the staff of the NYT thinks so.

[note: for whatever reason, my original essay got eaten and I've tried to recreate it from memory.  It's late now and I am bummed because my original was much better.  Perhaps my memory will improve with sleep and I'll edit this tomorrow.]

That title is actually be a bit misleading, as it may suggest that I have all the answers for the Church’s stand on organ donation.  I actually do not.  And I cannot speak on behalf of the Church.  But I do have some thoughts and suggestions that might give my faithful brethren and readers a jumping off point for further research.  And this is important because many Catholics have no idea that there is anything possibly wrong with the current state of organ donation.

But there is.

First, let me quote some pieces from a recent editorial commentary in the Wall Street Journal.  The commentary is written by Dick Teresi, author of The Undead: Organ Harvesting, the Ice-Water Test, Beating Heart Cadavers–How Medicine Is Blurring the Line Between Life and Death.  As he says,

Becoming an organ donor seems like a win-win situation. Some 3.3 people on the transplant waiting list will have their lives extended by your gift (3.3 is the average yield of solid organs per donor). You’re a hero, and at no real cost, apparently.

But what are you giving up when you check the donor box on your license? Your organs, of course—but much more. You’re also giving up your right to informed consent. Doctors don’t have to tell you or your relatives what they will do to your body during an organ harvest operation because you’ll be dead, with no legal rights.

You might ask yourself why you might care that you or your loved one no longer have legal rights, so Mr. Teresi explains why.  You don’t get any say in the tests used to determine your “death.”  As long time readers know, the tests for brain death are sketchy, non-uniform, individualistic and subjective.  He writes:

The exam for brain death is simple. A doctor splashes ice water in your ears (to look for shivering in the eyes), pokes your eyes with a cotton swab and checks for any gag reflex, among other rudimentary tests. It takes less time than a standard eye exam. Finally, in what’s called the apnea test, the ventilator is disconnected to see if you can breathe unassisted. If not, you are brain dead.

Hmmm, by this definition of brain death, I have personally as a lifeguard brought two people back from death.  Because that is what CPR is: breathing for individuals who aren’t breathing for themselves.  Mr. Teresi points out that even though such a person is now considered by organ harvesters as brain dead, they actually have much more in common with the living than the dead.  Their organs still function, they still heal, control their internal temperatures, etc.  And that is not all.

You might also be emitting brainwaves. Most people are surprised [note: shocked and disbelieving is more accurate] to learn that many people who are declared brain dead are never actually tested for higher-brain activity. The 1968 Harvard committee recommended that doctors use electroencephalography (EEG) to make sure the patient has flat brain waves. Today’s tests concentrate on the stalk-like brain stem, in charge of basics such as breathing, sleeping and waking. The EEG would alert doctors if the cortex, the thinking part of your brain, is still active.

But various researchers decided that this test was unnecessary, so it was eliminated from the mandatory criteria in 1971. They reasoned that, if the brain stem is dead, the higher centers of the brain are also probably dead.

[emphasis mine]

My thought here is that the harvesting team does not actually want to know if the donor is dead yet.  Nearly dead is close enough for them.

John Shea, M.D. has written for Catholic Insight:

Since 1968, vital organs, necessary for life, have been removed from patients for transplantation. Since then, this has been morally justified by the claim that the donor is “brain dead” or has suffered “cardiac death.” Brain death is defined as complete and irreversible loss of all brain function and cardiac death is declared two to five minutes after cessation of the heartbeat.

The moral problem is that the criteria used to declare that brain death or cardiac death has occurred are arbitrary, and open to continuing serious world-wide debate. They do not necessarily provide moral certainty that real death has occurred, and that such organ retrieval does not actually cause the death of the donor.

Many medical ethicists are concerned with this lack of certainty of an actual death in brain death cases.  Are you comfortable placing the end of your life decision in the hands of these medical professionals?  Is there reason to doubt their commitment to your best interests?  Actually, yes, yes there is.

Organ transplantation—from procurement of organs to transplant to the first year of postoperative care—is a $20 billion per year business. Recipients of single-organ transplants—heart, intestine, kidney, liver, single and double lung and pancreas—are charged an average $470,000, ranging from $288,000 for a kidney transplant to $1.2 million for an intestine transplant, according to consulting firm Milliman. Neither donors nor their families can be paid for organs.

Mr. Teresi does not mention the big gifts which the donor hospital receives in all this exchanging of organs.  But they do.  Providing organs is a very lucrative business for hospitals.

In his WSJ article, Mr. Teresi informs us that the current criteria on brain death were set by a Harvard Medical School committee in 1968.  In 1981, all 50 states adopted the Harvard brain death as a definition of death.  It is enlightening to read a bit from that important Harvard commission (quoting from).

Secular attempts to define death in this regard have not been all that successful.  Indeed, rather than use any sort of consistent biological or philosophical criteria, the concerns which seem to be driving definitions of death in the public sphere today are their relative expediency for procuring successful organ donation.  This trend started decades ago when the now famous Harvard brain death commission moved us toward a neurological (rather than cardio-pulmonary) criteria:

Our primary purpose is to define irreversible coma as a new criterion for death. There are two reasons why there is a need for a definition: (1) Improvements in resuscitative and supportive measures have led to increased efforts to save those who are desperately injured. Sometimes these efforts have only a partial success so that the result is an individual whose heart continues to beat but whose brain is irreversibly damaged. The burden is great on patients who suffer permanent loss of intellect, on their families, on the hospitals, and on those in need of hospital beds already occupied by these comatose patients. (2) Obsolete criteria for the definition of death can lead to controversy in obtaining organs for transplantation.

As Peter Singer, an atheist philosopher at Princeton who rejects brain death as a criterion for bodily death, notes this as a remarkable moment of honesty in bioethics:

[T]he Harvard committee does not even attempt to argue that there is a need for a new definition of death because hospitals have a lot of patients in their wards who are really dead, but are being kept attached to respirators because the law does not recognize them as dead.  Instead, with unusual frankness, the committee said that a new definition was needed because irreversibly comatose patients were a great burden, not only on themselves (why to be in an irreversible coma is a burden on the patient, the committee did not say), but also on their families, hospitals, and patients waiting for beds.           source

Catholic Moral Theology article drily states that “[t]oday we are still dealing with the incoherence of criteria for death driven by the need for organs.”  Indeed.

So where does this leave faithful Catholics, trying to live our pro-life mandate?  Pope Benedict has said

“The main criterion,” the Pope said, must be “respect for the life of the donor so that the removal of organs is allowed only in the presence of his actual death.”

The Pope is likely to have been referring to the L’Osservatore Romano article when he told the Transplant Conference, “Science, in recent years has made further progress in the determination of the death of a patient.” In the question of determination of death, the Pope cautioned, “there must not be the slightest suspicion of arbitrariness. Where certainty cannot be achieved, the principle of precaution must prevail.”

In the 1995 Encyclical Evangelium vitae (Gospel of Life), Pope John Paul commended organ donation as an unselfish gift of life, but he cautioned that the question of death must be answered by “moral certitude” in order for the gift to be morally legitimate.  The Pope said that organs may only be removed after death – “that is, from the body of someone who is certainly dead.”

“Certainly dead.”  The problem is that the medical profession which has a well-earned attitude for arrogance and expedience, is not at all interested in being certain of death.  Not all doctors, of course, but enough with plenty of individual latitude in declaring death (and then making it so) to make people of faith and intellect think twice.  And we should think twice.  I never gave this any thought, was never aware of the controversies in organ donation until this very topic affected me personally.  Until it took away someone I loved.  Since then, I have been educating myself and trying to educate others.  I’ve been collecting and sharing stories of supposedly “miraculous recoveries” by medically declared dead patients.  I have a half dozen such stories still to publish.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center states that a properly diagnosed neurological death can only be determined following an evaluation of the entire brain, including the cerebrum, cerebellum, and brain stem in order to determine the complete cessation of all organized neurological activity. Of course, it also calls me “irresponsible” but it goes on to make my point, which is “that the neurological criteria must be rigorously and consistently applied and a judgment made of total brain death before a person is declared dead” — but that unfortunately is just not happening with consistency and assurance.

Therefore, I am going to heed and recommend Mr. Teresi’s advice.  He ends his WSJ commentary by suggesting that prospective donors not sign away their rights, and thereby retain bargaining power.  “If you leave instructions with your next of kin, they can perhaps negotiate a better deal. Instead of just the usual icewater-in-the-ears, why not ask for a blood-flow study to make sure your cortex is truly out of commission?”

To that extent, I encourage my readers to avoid signing donor authorizations that ipso facto sign away legal rights for you and your loved ones.  Require the full tests suggested by the NCBC and do not allow a determination of death if the the cerebrum and cerebellum are not also evaluated.  Determinations by brain stem activity alone are inadequate.

A living will specifying the criteria you wish used to determine your death, the manner and way in which your body both before death and after must be treated and specifying clearly that you are a Catholic who wishes to be treated in accordance with the teachings of the Church are all recommended.  (There used to be a place for Catholics to purchase and download these materials, called Legal Lifeguard but something seems wrong with the site.)

Luce news update

In case any of my long-time readers are still dropping in from time to time, I wanted to ask your prayers for me.  I am taking over the pro-life ministry at my parish and it’s a ministry desperately in need of direction, enthusiasm, awareness and support.  Blessedly, our new pastor seems to be not only supportive in person, but from the pulpit. 

Anyway, I am still here, still trying to live out my faith and still humble in the face of the many many blessings God gives me.  We are leading our third Bible study (shew!) and I will soon have 2 teenagers in Catholic schools (for one of which I am the Spiritual Committee chairman).

I just don’t seem to have the energy to write these days, though I am reading as much as ever and trying hard to keep a good prayer life.

To all my friends, and you know who you are, you are in my thoughts and prayers and I hope I am in yours.  We’ll catch up soon.  Or well…sometime I’m sure.  Ha!

 
 
Today is the Feast day of St. Michael, Archangel.  He is the patron saint of Cooperating with Grace‘s LuceMichael.  We know St. Michael as the prince of the seraphim who defeated Satan and cast him out of heaven.  He is the constant guard of our Mother Church.  If invoked, he protects souls from the snares of Satan.  His very name asks, “Who is like God?” so invoking it is a way of pointing to the majesty of the Lord. 
 
 

Victory of St. Michael by Raphael

How about a song for St. Michael?

Don’t forget to pray the St. Michael Prayer located to the right in the margin. =>

Finally, on a personal note, I just want to say that my greatest desire in life, my most fervent hope, is to be granted this view on my death.  That is…

Archangel Michael reaching to save souls near death, by Jacopo Vignali, 17th century.

…St. Michael coming to lead me home to the arms of the Lord.

I don’t watch Bill Reilly so I missed this when it aired.  However, it was brought to my attention and I’m posting it here.  Thank goodness some people in the media are still interested in truth.  The New York Times makes me ill.

Anyway, here is Bill Reilly of FoxNews refuting the liberal leftists immediate and very public assessment that the horrific murders in Norway were wrought by a “Christian Fundamentalist”.

 

In honor of Father’s Day tomorrow, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit this Wall Street Journal article from last year, “Daddy Was Only a Donor”.  The author is W. Bradford Wilcox of the wonderful Public Discourse weblog / online magazine.

Mr. Wilcox challenges the messages we receive from Hollywood and an aggressive liberal sociologists that “mothers can do just as well raising children with donor fathers as they can with real ones.”  From a study by Commission on Parenthood’s Future, the reality is far more bleak.

The article reviews some of the studies findings, and includes this heartbreaking quote:

 

The study’s findings echo recent commentary from young adults conceived through donor insemination. Writing in the Washington Post a few years ago, Katrina Clark reported that she envied friends who had both a mother and a father. “That was when the emptiness came over me. I realized that I am, in a sense, a freak. I really, truly would never have a dad. I finally understood what it meant to be donor-conceived, and I hated it.”

We are hard-wired for the same values that Judeo-Christians have taught and followed for millenia.  To continue to deny that while pursuing this brave new world of self-gratification is only creating broken people who grow up thinking of themselves as “freaks.”  Despite all the propaganda, the social messages and cues, and the full backing of the media machine, these children do not accept that their lives are normal.  Just the opposite.  And statistic after statistic shows it.

Mr. Wilcox sums up the situation (as of last year’s Father’s Day):

So, despite the latest propaganda in favor of a father-optional future, this study suggests two stubborn truths: Children long to know and be known by their biological fathers, and they are much more likely to thrive when they have their own father in their lives.

On this Father’s Day, men who have managed to be good flesh-and-blood fathers to their children should take some satisfaction from the findings found in “My Daddy’s Name is Donor.” Even if the Big Screen portrays them as superfluous, in the real world, their kids are much more likely to turn out “all right” than kids who only know their daddy as Donor.

Happy Father’s Day, dads everywhere.  We need you.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.