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Posts Tagged ‘culture of death’

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.)

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Maybe you already saw this article linked over at The Drudge Report.  I am posting it here because of my own personal experience.   You see, I wish that when I was mired in sin and depressed and hopeless, some good Christian doctor had just said, “Get thee to a rectory! find a priest and dig yourself out of this dung heap of sin!”

Well, I eventually found that curative on my own, without the help of the medical community.  Still it is good to know that there are medical professionals that understand that God made us to be corporeal and spiritual, and the one affects the other.  In England, a young man described as being “in a rut and in need of help” was lucky enough to find a doctor who was willing to see him as the whole person that God made him.  After a lengthy consultation the doctor suggested that the young man return to the practice of his faith from youth.  Fox News NY reports:

Richard Scott, a doctor for 28 years, is under investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC) and faces disciplinary action after he suggested to a 24-year-old man that he might find solace in Christianity.

Scott, who practices at a medical center in Margate, east of London, well known for having Christian doctors, insists he only raised his spiritual beliefs after carrying out a thorough and lengthy consultation, during which medical checks and referrals for further care were arranged.

When the man’s mother inquired of the consultation, however, her son apparently replied, “He just said I need Jesus.” This prompted his mother to refer Scott to the GMC, claiming that he had not offered medical advice during the consultation but instead talked about Jesus.

…He has continued to seek treatment from the practice despite the complaint filed by his mother.

The doctor, who has an unblemished record “has decided to fight the allegations and stand up to what he believes is a politically correct trend in Britain to persecute Christians for expressing their faith in the workplace.”

Scott fears that if he accepts the warning, and discusses his Christian beliefs with other patients, he could be struck off.

He maintains he acted professionally and says the complaint was made against him in the knowledge that professional bodies are nervous about claims of a religious nature.

Scott said, “I only discussed my faith at the end of a lengthy medical consultation after exploring the various interventions that the patient had previously tried, and after promising to follow up the patient’s request for an appointment with other medical professionals.

“I only discussed mutual faith after obtaining the patient’s permission. In our conversation, I said that, personally, I had found having faith in Jesus helped me and could help the patient. At no time did the patient indicate that they were offended, or that they wanted to stop the discussion. If that had been the case, I would have immediately ended the conversation.

“This complaint was brought to the GMC not by the patient, who has continued to be a patient in this practice, but by the patient’s mother.”

Scott is a partner at the Bethesda medical center in Margate, Kent. The six partners at the practice are all Christians and it has taken a biblical name. Practice leaflets and message boards publicize the doctors’ religion and invite patients to raise Christian beliefs with them.

Scott is being advised by the Christian Legal Center. Paul Diamond, the leading human rights barrister, has been instructed in the case.

Did you catch that?  The practice is made up of Christian practitioners.  Their leaflets and boards publicize their Christian beliefs and the nature of their practice.  So my question is, did this mother take her son there knowing full well the nature of their practice?  Was this some sort of set up?  We know from experience that atheists and humanists are not content to simply keep religion out of government.  They want it out of everyone’s lives and will not be happy until this is achieved.  Their number one target, in fact their only target, is Christianity. 

Pray for this doctor and his legal defense team.  May we never be silent in proclaiming the truth.  And for what it’s worth, I think the doctor is probably spot on.  We all can think of examples where getting right by God ‘cured’ someone of pain, despair, depression, anxiety or other so-called mental illnesses.

It did for me.

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From the AP via msnbc.com:

An international series of protests known as SlutWalks, sparked by a Toronto police officer’s flippant comment …is taking root in the United States.

…SlutWalkers have danced to hip-hop, worn T-shirts with the word “slut” and held signs that read “sluts pay taxes.” Some women have skated around on inline skates in lingerie, while their male supporters wore shirts reading, “I love sluts.”

Billing their event as something for the “whole family”, organizers around the country are promoting “SlutWalks” to build awareness that “sluts pay taxes too,” and to the “slut shaming” that is apparently a big problem for all the um, sluts out there.  (Slut shaming, the Associated Press helpfully explains, is “shaming women for being sexual.” Thanks AP!)  I’m grateful to msnbc and the Associated Press for making me aware of this great injustice being done to people who, through fate or poor life decisions, are sluts and are being burdened with unwelcome shame.

There have been SlutWalks throughout the country (Dallas, Philly, San Francisco, Seattle).  They originated when a Toronto police officer advised a group of university students in a safety seminar to avoid dressing like sluts so as not to be victimized.  Apparently, this was incorrect advice and the officer has been reprimanded.  However, the outrageous comments of this Neanderthal barbarian has galvanized the previously silent slut population who are taking to the streets throughout North America.

Here is the 21 year old organizer of the Boston Slut Walk, (she must be sorta like a modern Susan B. Anthony)–

It was taking the blame off the rapist and on the victim,” said Nicole Sullivan, 21, a student at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and an organizer of the SlutWalk planned Saturday in that city. “So we are using these efforts to reclaim the word ‘slut.'”

Well, good luck to all the sluts out there, reclaiming the word, “slut.”  It’s a shame (no pun intended) that the word ever got hijacked and used to describe, well, sluts.

The article contrasts these nationwide events with the Take Back the Night anti-sexual violence rallies, which are rather tame lame affairs in comparison.  Apparently, modern young women want to promote anti-sexual violence by dressing and dancing as, well…sluts.  And they have support among the more enlightened young men who proudly wear teeshirts and carry signs that say, “We love sluts.”  Yes, I imagine they do.

(At Take Back the Night’s official website, they don’t even have “We love sluts” teeshirts.  All they have are some boring “empowerment” and “break the silence” graphics.  *Yawn*)

In San Francisco, where the walk just developed “organically” (of course it did; isn’t everything in San Francisco “organic”?), the organizers think this would be a swell outing for daddies and mommies to bring the kiddos.

In San Francisco, SlutWalk organizers want to make their protest a family event.

“Singles, couples, parents, sisters, brothers, children, friends,” the SlutWalk SF BAY Facebook page announces. “Come walk or roll or strut or holler or stomp with us.”

So dress up your little girls as tiny sluts, pull a “I love sluts” teeshirt on dad and sons, and stomp on out to your local SlutWalk.  Because nothing, I mean nothing, deters sexual violence like running around in lingerie. 

You Satan will be so happy that you did.

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From the Boston Herald:

****

“…Meanwhile, Charles Skidmore, principal of Arlington High School, where a Maria Talks poster hangs in the nurse’s office, said, “I’m assuming because it’s from the Department of Public Health, it’s balanced information. There’s so much information available now, at least this has someone standing behind it that is a state-sponsored organization.” (emphasis mine)

I read the quote from the principal and my reaction is, “Orly?”  (that’s teenspeak for “Oh, really?” said in a sardonic and sometimes sarcastic tone.)  So what is the state doing that Principal Skidmore feels so secure in?

“The commonwealth is using taxpayer money to tell kids how to get a secret abortion, and that’s wrong,” said Linda Thayer, a former Boston schoolteacher who is vice president for educational affairs of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, which this week took aim at the site. (emphasis mine)

Ah, so let’s look again at the ‘assumption’ that Principal Skinner is making with regards to some posters hanging in his school. Scripture warns us directly to trust in God, not in earthly power, yet, we do it all the time.  Government is our friend, it’s here to protect us, we are America, we are the land of the free and the brave, the great democratic experiment.  Surely, we can trust those we elect to make the best decisions for us. Can’t we?

If that were ever true (and I doubt it were), it is far from true today.  Today, our bloated government is chockful of liberal bureaucrats who are intent on pushing an activist social agenda that you and I not only do not want, but realize is damaging to us, our children, our country and our future.

Today’s Boston Herald has a good example of the hateful activities which our government is sponsoring and funding, in the Orwellian-like insistence that this is a good thing.  In Massachusetts, the commonwealth is paying for a website to encourage teens who are sexually active.  We’re told the website is “essential” and “non-judgmental” and it has the full support of NARAL and the AIDS Action Committee:

A state-funded sex education Web site that tells teens an abortion is “much easier than it sounds” has drawn fire from outraged pro-lifers who say mariatalks.com is glossing over ugly truths, steering teens toward the controversial procedure and counseling them how to keep mom and dad in the dark.

Aren’t you glad to know that public money is being spent to tell kids how to avoid the law, skirt their parents, trash their young lives, and do longtime psychological damage to themselves?

I think Mr. Charles Skidmore is naive at best, and disingenious at worst.  He has passed the buck along and is not accepting responsibility on behalf of these kids, or just as likely, is complicit in the sexualization of our youth.  Either way, it’s not a pretty picture in Massachusetts.

Ugh.  I’d parse this article but I’m tired and discouraged.  Enough to bring it to your attention today.

Please pray for an end to abortion, and the strength to love and teach our kids in God’s ways, not the ways of earthly princes.

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The increasingly reliable Daily Mail‘s headline tells the tale:

Babies who are born at 23 weeks should be left to die, says NHS chief

The British daily has found the official with Britain’s National Health Service, Dr Daphne Austin being quoted in a BBC documentary saying:

‘We are doing more harm than good by resuscitating 23-weekers. I can’t think of very many interventions that have such poor outcomes.

‘For me the big issue is that we’re spending an awful lot of money on treatments that have very marginal benefit.

‘I would prefer to free up that money to spend on providing support to people who have much more lifelong chronic conditions.’

This official, we are told, advises what treatments and care should be funded in the West Midlands region.  In other words, lives depend on her authorization.  And she would “prefer to free up that money” than treating the babies.

She claimed keeping them alive is only ‘prolonging their agony’, and it would be better to invest the money in care for cancer sufferers or the disabled.

And what might be the ‘prolonged agony’ that would warrant killing these children? Why, “blindness, deafness and cerebral palsy”, of course!  What a horrible drain on society are the blind, deaf and disabled.  Do you think that Annie Sullivan thought much the same of her student, Helen Keller?  That Helen was a drain on the financial resources of her family and her country?  I doubt it.  

Why is this little throwaway article important to us Christians? Because we know intuitively that what this official is suggesting with respect to 23-week preemies is just the latest salvo in the war to drag Western society into a full-blown embrace of euthanasia for the disable, sick and marginalized. 

The Daily Mail helpfully introduces us to the horrible effects of allowing 23-weekers to remain alive. Meet Molly Griffith.

Apparently, The Daily Mail is not fooled by this doctor’s neo-rational argument.  Again surprising and delighting this Catholic blogger, the paper introduces us to Molly Griffith, who would ostensibly be the kind of child that Dr. Austin is looking to kill off.  When she was born prematurely at 23 weeks, she could fit into the palm of a hand.  She is missing a kidney, has epilepsy, and one side is weaker than the other.  But the NHS did not have the sort of cost-cutting twelve years ago, and she endured, growing into a happy, energetic and normal child.  And if the picture of Molly tells us anything, it is that “lifelong chronic conditions” do not deprive human beings of love, joy, intellect, meaning, and above all, life.  Euthanasia does.

 
Notably, the Church of England, bastion of moral relativism that it is, (again) declines to take a stand for life, morality and Christ.  Blessedly, The Daily Mail apparently will.
 
God bless The Daily Mail.

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.It’s not even “mostly dead.” 

From Seattle (via Houston) comes another story of a patient misdiagnosed as brain dead.  Unlike previous stories I’ve posted, this one has the organ harvesters as the heroes.

Karen Arbogast was a wife, mother and grandmother who volunteered as an EMT in the Tri-Cities area.On Tuesday, she was dead.

On Wednesday, she was alive.

Arbogast, 51, was involved in a three-vehicle crash early Tuesday evening at Highway 395 and Hildebrand Road in the Tri-Cities area.

The Washington State Patrol said a FedEx delivery truck struck a Toyota Camry after running a red light on Highway 395. The truck then slammed into the driver’s side of the Mercury Monterey van.

Arbogast was unconscious but breathing and taken to Kennewick General Hospital, said investigators.

“We couldn’t believe that this just happened,” said her daughter Candice Duncan, who rushed with other family to be by her mother’s side. “She’s always, always, thought of other people first.”

But relatives said doctors in Kennewick told them the crash had left her brain-dead, or at least, with no brain activity.

“[It was] sad to see Mom being in that kind of state,” said her son, Scott Magnuson.

Because Karen is registered as an organ donor, her husband, Carl, signed release forms. Doctors left her on life support so they could fly her to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for the organ harvesting procedure.

“My dad took off her wedding rings and all that stuff, and we all said goodbye,” said Duncan.

“And it was hard,” said Magnuson. “I didn’t really say goodbye because I still had hope, you know. I just kind of got down next to her and kissed her forehead and said, ‘I hope you recover.'”

Little did he know his words would be prophetic. The first word from Harborview came early Wednesday morning, said Carl’s brother Perry Arbogast.

“He’s there sitting at his chair at 2:30 in the morning,” said Perry, “and the doctor calls and says … ‘we have signs of life.'”

Ten hours after the crash, Harborview had found brain activity. They were calling, asking if they could perform surgery, said Perry.

“From being to the depths of losing your wife after 31 years, and then to find hope that she’s still alive?” he said.

As shocked family members drove to Seattle from Hermiston and Umatilla, Oregon, doctors removed a blood clot from Karen’s brain and cut into her skull to relieve pressure, said relatives.

And it appears to be working. As of Thursday night, Karen Arbogast’s condition has been upgraded to serious, said a hospital spokesperson. Though unconscious, she’s even moving.

“Today, she moved her upper shoulder and she wiggled her toes on her right side and her irises are responding to light,” said Duncan. He said Karen was even able to breathe on her own for 45 minutes.

Perry said a neurologist told them it is actually not unusual for victims to have no detectable brain activity for several hours after major trauma, but he’s calling it something akin to a miracle, though she’s not out of the woods yet.

“Had they not sent her here to harvest the organs they would not have found out she was alive,” said Perry Arbogast. “I think that’s remarkable.”

Family members said doctors are still giving Karen just a 25 percent chance of regaining consciousness. But for now, Duncan said she’s not worried about her mother dying anymore.

“My mom has just always been there for me and been a pillar of strength for me,” said Candice, who said people around the country have been praying for Karen’s recovery. “Mom taught me to hold on to that and never let go.”

http://www.khou.com/news/Woman-makes-miraculous-comeback-from-brain-death-diagnosis-105533163.html

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The mother of the child who survived his abortion attempt for two days, while being left alone in an Italian hospital without care, was allowed to have a late term abortion under Italian law because pre-natal scans indicated the baby had a “disability.”  What was the disability that warranted the murder of this little boy?

A cleft palate.

Nurse and activist Jill Stanek opines that born alive infants who are left to die by hospitals, abortion doctors and abortion mill workers not only happens every day, she “would even venture to say this is a worldwide epidemic.”

Read her report here.

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