The Organ Harvesting Scandal

The Human Being as an Object.
We live in a society that is becoming more and more atheistic and pagan. As belief in God declines alongside an increasing misunderstanding of who God is, more and more people turn to irrational explanations of the world around them. Atheists are forced to try to explain the world as if God does not exist. Without God, there is no purpose to the order that is observed in the world, and there is no real purpose to our lives. We exist because we exist. We are a culmination of random coincidences that just happened. Those who misunderstand God tend to create gods of their own. They cannot live without a purpose, so they create false religions to satisfy emotional desires and to give false comfort to one another in times of death, serious illness and other tragedies. Many Catholics discard infallible Church teachings in order to justify sinful actions and to justify voting in favour of sinful immoral legislation.

As a result of the decline of belief in God and a correct understanding of who God is, belief in the afterlife and belief in the reality of Hell also decline. I met with a friend recently who was involved in conducting a simple survey where he lives. Random people were asked two questions. Do you believe in Hell? Do you believe in an afterlife? The general results from different areas showed that two out of every three who responded do not believe in Hell, and that one out of every three who responded do not believe in life after death. Although not conducted in a scientific way, I believe the results of the survey to be quite accurate and they can be confirmed by simply looking at recent developments in Irish society which include, the general acceptance of ‘same-sex marriage’; the general acceptance that it is legitimate to kill certain innocent human beings in their mother’s wombs in certain circumstances; and the general acceptance of divorce.

We can also observe an increase in beliefs that coincide with a materialistic view of the world. Our Lady warned us at Fatima in 1917 that Russia would spread her errors. We see evidence of this in a growing understanding of the value of individuals which is based on their usefulness to society. In this worldview, people are treated as objects that can be used or discarded depending on the needs of others. Examples obviously include abortion and euthanasia, but a more troubling example, which may prove emotionally difficult for some people who have experience of it through a loved one, is the whole issue of organ donation. I know that this topic will be difficult for some people, but Christ tells us that the Truth will set us free.

I have wanted to write on this difficult subject for quite some time but there is now an increased urgency for people to have a correct moral understanding of organ donation. This urgency in Ireland is due to certain recent events. One of those events has been the introduction to Ireland’s National Catholic Shrine in Knock, of an annual organ donor Mass where people are encouraged to sign up for organ donation. Another is the recent announcement by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, that he intends to introduce the ‘opt-out’ system of organ donation to Ireland. For those who are unaware of what this is, it simply means that in the event of a serious accident where someone is judged to be ‘brain dead’, their bodily organs belong to the state to be used as determined by surgeons, unless the person in question has signed an ‘opt-out’ form stating that they do not want their organs used for transplantation.

This system is based on a false understanding of ‘presumed consent’. Consent is a deliberate act of the human will therefore it cannot be presumed unless the person has been fully informed of the consequences of their decision. As this article will show, most people do not realise that they would not be actually dead according to the traditional definition of death when their vital organs are removed. Many people do not realise that the donor’s heart is still beating when they remove the vital organs. In other words, the organ donor is not dead even though they have been declared ‘brain dead’.

The ‘John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family’ (JAHLF), founded by Professor Joseph Seifert, held a conference in Rome on May 21st and 22nd this year to look at the concept of ‘Brain Death’ from a medical and moral viewpoint. They have published several papers on this on their website I want to have a brief look at one of those papers titled Brain Death,’ Organ Donation, and Presumed Consent”. It is written by Dr Doyen Nguyen.

Dr Doyen Nguyen, M.D., S.T.D. is both a moral theologian and a physician specialized in hematopathology. A graduate of Temple University Medical School and a scholar of the Leopold Schepp Foundation, she is a lay Dominican and a Professor of Theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome where she obtained her doctorate in moral theology, specializing in end-of-life ethics.

In her paper Dr Nguyen looks at the Harvard Report of 1968 which defined ‘Brain Death’ as the new criteria for establishing when the death of a patient has occurred, She writes:

“The language in the drafts of the Harvard Report and the memos between the Committee members constitute the clearest and most important evidence showing that the need for fresh and viable organs is the very cause to bring about the birth of ‘brain death.’ This evidence, accessible only to a few selected scholars and not to the public, reveals the centrality of organ transplantation as the true impetus for the Committee’s work. For instance, in one of his correspondences to Beecher in late 1967 regarding organs, Murray wrote: ‘The next question posed by your manuscript, namely, ‘Can society afford to lose organs that are now being buried?’ is the most important one of all. Patients are stacked up in every hospital in Boston and all over the world waiting for suitable donor kidneys. At the same time patients are being brought in dead to emergency wards and potentially useful kidneys are being discarded.’”

It is chilling to realise that the concept of death was re-defined in order to facilitate the ‘harvesting’ of organs from patients. Even the use of the term ‘organ harvesting’ shows that the patient is being treated as an object who can be dismembered in order to save the lives of others. These organs are being ‘harvested’ from patients who, according to the traditional definition of death, are still living. As David Daube, the law scholar noted, “Under the classical definition of death, which should not be lightly discarded, an irreversibly unconscious person whose life depends on a machine is still alive. The doctor may be right to stop the machine and let him die. But until death occurs, interference with his body is illicit: it is not a corpse.”

Dr Nguyen speaks of the unwritten ‘Dead Donor Rule’ which existed prior to the new definition concocted by the Harvard Report.

“The tacit, unwritten Dead Donor Rule stipulates that vital organs can only be taken from dead people and that “organ retrieval itself cannot cause death.” The only way to circumvent the Dead Donor Rule is to have a new criterion for determining death such that procurement of vital organs does not leave physicians open to the charge of murder.”

She also states “Put bluntly, redefining irreversible coma (the term) as death, and labelling it as ‘brain death’ does not change the reality of irreversible coma (the phenomenon), for indeed one can only be in a state of coma if one is still alive. What the severely brain-injured, deeply comatose patient needs and deserves is to be promptly given the state-of-the-art modalities of brain-targeted therapy necessary for the acute management of severe brain injury. Instead, more often than not, such patients (especially if they are young, and constitutionally healthy before the severe brain injury), are declared brain-dead within 24-48 hours of hospital admission and quickly sent to organ-removal surgery.”

Dr Nguyen also speaks about the lack of transparency and the obvious deceptions which take place regarding organ donation procedures.

“Since the introduction of the Harvard Report, “government and professional organizations and advocacy groups have mischaracterized organ donation as donation after death to make it palatable to the general public. “Normally, after a patient is declared dead in the intensive care unit, the customary procedure includes “turning off the machines, removing the various lines and tubes, and sending the [dead body] to the appropriate place in the hospital – the morgue.” In contrast, when a potential donor is declared dead according to the ‘brain death’ criterion, “Monitoring and intervention continue at maximal levels in order to protect and preserve organs. Health professionals must adhere to detailed instructions defining the specific physiologic and technical indexes for optimal organ perfusion, hydration, diuresis, and avoidance of infection. Should the ‘patient’ have a cardiac arrest, even resuscitation is considered essential.” The above passage leads to this very simple question: if ‘brain death’ is death, then “which undertaker would be willing to proceed with funeral procedures [ … ] on individuals with the diagnosis of ‘whole brain death’ prior to the removal of their organs?”

Dr Nguyen concludes, “Put simply, organ donation in ‘brain death’ is not ‘postmortem’ organ donation, precisely because “organ donation procedures begin before death.” If men for millennia have feared to be thought dead while still alive, as illustrated in Poe’s short story The Premature Burial, then would people not think twice before being subjected to vivisection, let alone volunteering themselves for such a procedure? Moreover, what would happen to the multibillion dollar (or Euro) transplantation enterprise if the public were to learn the truth that the alleged organ donation after death is actually the donation of vital organs before death?”

Another speaker at the JAHLF conference in Rome was Dr Paul Byrne. Dr Byrne is a neonatologist and a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics. He is past President of the Catholic Medical Association. Dr Byrne is well known for his talks on brain death and his talks online give several examples of patients who were declared brain dead, but who have made complete or almost complete recoveries. One of those examples was of a young baby who was declared brain dead but who fully recovered and is now married with three children of his own. Dr Byrne notes that since the Harvard Report of 1968, many more criteria have been added to the ‘brain dead’ definition and that each subsequent addition makes it easier to declare a patient dead in order to remove their vital organs.

Another example that Dr Byrne gives online is the story of Zack Dunlap who was declared ‘brain dead’ after an accident on a quad bike in 2005. Zack was declared ‘brain dead’ and his parents were told that the harvesting of Zack’s organs would begin within twelve to twenty-four hours. The hospital in question notified authorities that Zack had died at 11.10am that morning. Zack’s family and relatives were called in to say their last goodbyes.

The relatives included two of Zack’s cousins who were also nurses. They were not convinced that Zack was dead. One of them took out a pocketknife and scraped it along one of Zack’s feet. Zack jerked back his foot in response to this stimulus. The nurse relative then stuck his fingernail under one of Zack’s fingernails and Zack jerked his arm away. Meanwhile the organ transport helicopter had arrived at the hospital. Zack, whose death had been officially recorded at 11.10 that morning, is still alive today and apart from some memory problems, he has fully recovered. It is frightening to think that if his cousins had not intervened Zack’s organs would have been harvested and he would have been killed by these procedures. One can only wonder how many others who have been declared brain dead have not been so fortunate.

That the Catholic Shrine in Knock is promoting the immoral organ donation industry is once again a serious scandal that needs to be stopped. Despite the fact that this will be a very difficult topic for those who have loved ones whose organs have been donated or for those who are the recipients of ‘donated’ organs, it is important that people realise that most organs for transplant are removed from people who are still alive. They are only ‘dead’ according to false criteria that were created specifically to facilitate the ‘harvesting’ of healthy organs from people who although seriously injured are still living. Dr Paul Byrne recommends that people do not sign up for organ donation as there is a real danger that you could be killed for your organs in the event of a serious accident.

This is something that we need to study and to talk about even though it is very difficult subject matter. Organ donation has become part of the culture of death which treats human beings as objects. Unborn children can be killed on the pretence that it will make life easier for all concerned with an unintended pregnancy. Sick children in their mother’s wombs can be killed for similar reasons. Elderly people can be killed because their continued living constitutes a burden to others. Seriously injured people can be killed because their organs can be used to maintain the lives of others.

This year’s Organ Donor Mass has already occurred in Knock. Perhaps we need to encourage as many as possible to write to Archbishop Michael Neary to make sure that this does not happen in the future. Apart from the immorality of most organ donation it is also an abuse of the Mass to offer it for such an intention and to promote organ donation at the Mass.

May God bless you