Republished with permission.
Two Parts posted below.
January 17, 2012
Book review: Finis Vitae — Is “Brain Death” True Death?
“Why Does A Corpse Need Anesthesia? —
A Hundred and One Questions and Answers on the Fiction of ‘Brain Death'”
MAYOR — As Mayor of the Munchkin City
In the County of the Land of Oz
I welcome you most regally
BARRISTER — But we’ve got to verify it legally
MAYOR — To see?
BARRISTER — If she…
MAYOR — If she?
BARRISTER — Is morally, ethic’ly
FATHER NO. 1 — Spiritually, physically
FATHER NO. 2 — Positively, absolutely
ALL OF GROUP — Undeniably and reliably
CORONER — As Coroner, I must aver I thoroughly examined her.
She’s really, most sincerely dead.
The above scene from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz quite clearly demonstrates that most people — be they lay or professional — have little difficulty in distinguishing a live human being from a dead one. Thus even the unsophisticated Munchkins were able to rattle off in an easy sing-song fashion that the wicked Witch of the East was dead in every way — positively, absolutely, undeniably, and most sincerely dead.
The Traditional Criteria for Death
Throughout the ages, great care has been taken to avoid the unthinkable mistake of declaring a person dead who is still alive.
The classical determination that a human being is dead and that the soul has separated from the body includes the absence of a heart beat, pulse, and blood pressure. The three major systems — the circulatory and respiratory system and the entire brain — are no longer functioning. The person has stopped breathing. There is poor color of the skin, nails, and mucous membranes. Rigor mortis, rapid decomposition and putrefaction are among the last recognizable signs that death has occurred.
What remains is a corpse — an empty, cold, blue, rigid body unresponsive to all stimuli. Ventilation will not restore respiration to a corpse. A pacemaker can send a signal, but it cannot initiate a heartbeat in the person who is truly dead. Healing never occurs in a corpse. 
But, this was before the creation of the fiction of “brain death.” as the criterion for death by the Harvard Medical School Ad Hoc Committee on “Brain Death’ in 1968. 
Because unpaired vital organs suitable for transplantation can only be obtained from a living donor, the new utilitarian golden mean of “brain death” requires that the donor be alive enough to provide fresh vital organs for transplantation purposes, but dead enough to grant legal immunity from prosecution to the transplant surgeon and his team, and the medical center, for acts of killing or homicide.
Some readers may recall that my very first article for Renew America on March 21, 2011, was titled Don’t Give Your Heart Away — know the facts about unpaired vital organ transplantation.
So it seems fitting that, on this, my upcoming first anniversary as a columnist for Renew America, that I revisit the scene of the crime and reveal new evidence in opposition to the false, un-scientific, and outdated criterion of “brain death” promoted by the vital organ transplantation industry and its minions.
Finis Vitae Almost Didn’t Make It to Print
In his introduction to Finis Vitae, Paul A. Byrne, Neonatologist and Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Medical University of Ohio, and President of the Life Guardian Foundation, gives some interesting facts behind efforts to thwart the publication of this important book. 
Dr. Byrne reports that in 2004, Pope John Paul II asked a group of faithful lay Catholics to collaborate with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) to re-examine in depth the issues of “brain death” and unpaired vital organ transplantation. Previous official meetings held by the PAS on these critical matters in 1985, and again in 1989, were with few exceptions, dominated by scientists and physicians loyal to the organ transportation industry, and produced little in the way of illuminating the true nature and implications of the controversies surrounding the definition of “brain death” as a valid criterion for true death, and the institutionalized practice of excising unpaired vital organ from living persons for transplantation purposes.
One of the key provisos imposed on organizers of the meeting by the Vatican was that both sides of the issues, pro and con, be equally represented at the conference.
On February 3-4, 2005, “The Signs of Death” Conference was convened in Vatican City by the PAS. At the conclusion of the conference, the usual preparations were made to print and distribute the proceedings of the conference, but at the 11th hour, the printing was called off without any explanation.
That this mishap involved more than a bureaucratic error became evident when the PAS organized another conference on September 11-12, 2006, under the same title “The Signs of Life.” This time, however, there was no requirement imposed by the Vatican on the organizers for balance in the selection of presenters. Not surprisingly, the deck was conveniently stacked in favor of the advocates of “brain death,” and the proceedings were printed and distributed without any delay.
The source of the behind-the-scenes intrigue was traced to pro-“brain death” advocates within the Board of Directors of the PAS and Curia and lay officials associated with the Pontifical Academy of Life and the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Workers. 
Fortunately for the Catholic faithful the world over, Byrne and his colleagues who oppose “brain death” decided to publish their papers from the original 2005 “The Signs of Death” Conference under the auspices of the National Research Council of Italy.
The Italian version of Finis Vitae, edited by Professor Roberto de Mattei, was published in 2006. And in 2009, the English version was edited and updated by Dr. Byrne and published by the Life Guardian Foundation.
The eighteen papers published in Finis Vitae in opposition to “brain death” are authored by world-class neurologists, philosophers, neonatologists, jurists, and bioethicists, and are remarkable for their exquisite truthfulness, clarity, and conviction. Let’s take a closer look at their arguments which have the capability of crippling the whole mercenary transplantation industry if they were but more widely known.
Harvard Ad Hoc Committee Repeatedly Discredited
In my earlier article for Renew America, “Don’t Give Your heart Away….” I explained briefly the history of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School to Examine the Definition of Brain Death which was formed in 1968 for the purpose of redefining death so as to permit physicians to legally excise and transplant fresh vital organs from living human beings. This quest for a redefinition of death came on the heels of Dr. Christiaan Barnard’s first human heart transplant operation (killing) in South Africa on December 3, 1967, and Brooklyn surgeon Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz’s murder of a live, 3-day-old baby, in order to secure a beating heart for an 18-day-old baby with heart disease, on December 6, 1967. Scalpel-sharp criticism of the Harvard fiasco is found throughout the text of Finis Vitae. Professor Emeritus Robert Spaemann, one of Germany’s leading Catholic philosophers, who made his presentation in opposition to “brain death” at both the 2005 and 2006 “The Signs of Life” Conferences pulls no punches when he says:
The new definition of death as “brain death” makes it possible to declare people dead while they are still breathing and to bypass the dying process in order to quarry spare parts for the living from the dying. Death no longer comes at the end of the dying process, but — by the fiat of a Harvard commission — at its beginning. 
The commission intended to provide a new definition [of death], clearly expressing their main interest. It was no longer the interest of the dying to avoid being declared dead prematurely, but other people’s interest in declaring a dying person dead as soon as possible. 
Professor Spaemann reminds card-carrying donors and their families especially, to be aware that “A transplantation physician professionally sides with the recipient, not the donor of organs.”  The practical application of this obvious conflict of interest is that the donor card may become the donor’s death warrant. As another contributor, Cicero Galli Coimbra, M.D., PhD, a Clinical Neurologist at the Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, points out, “… nowadays many brain injured patients conceivably evolve to deep coma and are submitted to diagnostic procedures for BD/BSD (brain death/brain-stem death) without having even received the current standard of basic care to prevent further brain injury from secondary insults (emphasis added).  Among these tests is the apnea test for determination of “brain death,” which is administered for the ultimate benefit of the organ recipient not the injured patient. 
The Coup de Grace of the Apnea Test
The necessity of ending the practice of carrying out the deadly apnea test on potential organ donors to determine “brain death” is another major theme found in Finis Vitae. While this test is often categorized as “cardinal,” “essential,” “central,” or “mandatory,” in reality, the apnea test serves no therapeutic purpose whatsoever for the potential donor. Rather, its primary purpose is to determine if the patient can or cannot breath on his own in order to declare him “brain dead,” and thus eligible to be an organ donor. True informed consent concerning the nature of and dangers posed by the test are usually withheld from family members lest they withhold support for the test, without which the transplantation protocol cannot proceed. In another of Coimbra’s essays, “The Apnea Test — A Bedside Lethal ‘Disaster’ to Avoid a Legal ‘Disaster’ in the Operating Room,” the neurologist states that the apnea test administered to the seriously brain injured patient may cause “irreversible damage to brain tissue,” and even death.  However, he says, while most physician advocates may publicly comment on “the possibility of damage by the apneic insult to transplantable organs,” they are unwilling to publish information on “the ethical implications of worsening the clinical and neurological conditions of the potential donor or even causing his (or her) death.”  According to Coimbra, the apnea test is not only “undoubtedly unethical” but it is also “technically useless for its own intended or declared purpose of characterizing the irreversible loss of respiratory reflex.”  Because the apnea test “violates the most fundamental guidelines for the management of severe brain injuries by inducing hypercarbia, hypotension and hypoxia,” Coimbra says, “it may solely administer the coup de grace” to a potentially recoverable patient lined up for organ procurement.  Dr. Coimbra laments the fact that, “… too many lives have been lost during the last decades of blindness, when the diagnosis of ‘death’ has been applied to the silent brain receiving critical levels of blood supply.” But, he concludes on a more hopeful note that “A patient who would have hopelessly died years ago, may now recover by novel and effective therapies developed from improved knowledge on the pathophysiology of coma.” 
The UK Experience with “Brainstem Death”
In “Brain Death — A United Kingdom Anesthetist’s View,” clinician, physician, and anesthetist of some 42 years, David J. Hill, M.A., FRCA, answers the question posed in this article’s title, “Why Does a Corpse Need Anesthesia?” The answer is, of course, that a corpse doesn’t need anesthesia, but a living person whose heart is about to be cut out from his body along with other vital organs, DOES. In his introductory remarks, Hill explains that he had entered the organ transplantation field early in his medical career. His practice included the removal of corneas, and later kidneys, from cadavers.  But he later withdrew from the transplantation program after experience with beating-heart donors. Hill became convinced that these patients were “not dead in any normally accepted way,” and that donors and potential donors were being “deceived by not being allowed fully informed consent.”  In 1976, the Conference of Royal Medical Colleges and their Faculties in the UK drew up a paper mistitled “The Diagnosis of Brain Death.” The term “Brain Death” was later replaced with “Brainstem Death,” and finally “Death for Transplant Purposes,” and “Death certified by brainstem testing.” The original and ostensible purpose of the paper was declared to be the formalizing of guidelines for the removal of ICU life support systems from seriously injured patients who could not be fully resuscitated and for whom further treatment remained futile. The patient’s subsequent death was ascertained and certified in the traditional manner, i.e., by the total cessation of breathing and circulation. The real reason for the new criteria and tests, however, did not become clear until three years later when the same Conference issued a Memorandum stating that these criteria and tests could also be used to discern death “because by then all functions of the brain have permanently and irreversibly ceased.”  Thus, “the legal framework for obtaining viable organs for transplantation,” was put into place even though the brainstem testing was 1) incapable of determining higher brain functions which operate independently of the brainstem, and 2) tests for destruction of the brainstem are incomplete says Hill. 
The Lazarus Phenomenon
One of the most fascinating aspects of Hill’s presentation is his comments on the so-called “Lazarus phenomenon” where patients who have been certified dead by brainstem testing exhibit purposeful movements.  These spontaneous movements which obviously cause “great alarm” in the operating room or ICU, says Hill, are dismissed by the staff as “purely reflex and terminal” although they are coordinated and may well represent cerebellar and higher brain involvement.  Also dismissed as mere reflex, he says, are the movements and the accompanying rise in pulse rate and in blood pressure at the beginning of and during surgery — responses which correspond to the responses of any surgical patient who is too lightly anaesthetized.  “It is always necessary to paralyze the beating heart donor in order to prevent patient movement and to make the surgery possible,” Hill states. “It is not natural to observe so many signs of life in one supposed to be dead,” Hill reflects. “As has been observed by others, no pathologist would readily perform a post mortem examination on such a responsive body; no undertaker would bury or cremate one,” Hill concludes (emphasis added).
Aggressive Media and Government Hype Keeps the Public Clueless
Many of the contributors to Finis Vitae freely express their deep distress at the hype, disinformation, and lack of true informed consent associated with the mass media and government’s promotion of Excise Murder, Inc. Cardiologist Dr. Yoshio Watanabe of Japan, in his article on his country’s seven-year experience after the promulgation of the Organ Transplantation Law (1997-2004), reports that both the mass media and the Japanese government issued “propaganda” rather than “well balanced information” on the matter, promoting the act of organ donation as “a noble deed” based on love of humanity and brotherly love.  Watanabe said that most lay people were made to believe that organ transplantation was a “wonderful therapy that could save lives” not an act of murder of the living donor for the benefit of the organ recipient.  Similarly, Dr. Coimbra reports that money and a vast propaganda machine fuel the organ transplantation industry in Brazil.  “… there is a gigantic, everlasting advertising campaign devoted to convincing people to accept organ donation, and to communicate to their family members their wish (before becoming ‘brain dead).'”  Coimbra makes an additional point often overlooked in the transplantation controversy, that prevention campaigns dedicated to increase the compliance with effective treatments available for the control of hypertension and diabetes (the two leading causes of chronic renal failure) are almost non existent, thereby “preserving an indefatigable and high demand for transplantable organs.” 
What About the Donor’s Interest?
The ugly, utilitarian reality of surgical organ harvesting is always carefully hidden from the public explains former transplant cardiologist Dr. Walt Franklin Weaver in his essay, “Unpaired Vital Organ Transplantation Secular Altruism? Has killing become a virtue?”  Members of transplant teams composed of surgical specialists from various medical centers view the donor “as in a mirror dimly” says Weaver:
If not spirituality blinded, they were often visually blinded since often their view of the “donor” would be obscured by surgical drapes that often would have been placed prior to the arrival of the surgical harvest team. As each of them delivered the organs of their specialty to recipients in their various medical center, there would be “speaking in tongues of men and angels and clanging cymbals” and the local media, hospital spokesmen, other doctors, and patients would praise them for bringing their “gifts of life” …. 
Speaking from experience, Weaver admits that human pride and glory are motivating factors for transplant physicians. He ends his observation by paraphrasing the words of God to Saint Catherine of Siena — “Do you know, physician, who you are and who I am? You are he who is not, and I am he who is.” 
[In Part II [below] I will examine the philosophical and metaphysical arguments against “brain death” and the extraordinary admissions of pro-“brain death” proponents who have come over to the opposition camp following what they refer to as their “Damascus Moment.”
© Randy Engel
January 27, 2012
Book review: Finis Vitae — Is “Brain Death” True Death?
“Why Does A Corpse Need Anesthesia? —
A Hundred and One Questions and Answers on the Fiction of ‘Brain Death'”
Part II Introduction — Biology 101
Biologically speaking, the human body is composed of cells, tissues, organs and eleven systems, including three major vital systems. No one organ or system controls all other organs and systems. Interdependent functioning of organs and systems maintains unity, homeostasis, immune defenses, growth, healing and exchange with environment, e.g., oxygen and carbon dioxide.
The wondrous complexity and interaction between the body’s vital organs and major systems, in particular, the heart and the autonomic nervous system, is highlighted in John Andrew Amour’s essay in Finis Vitae titled “The Heart of the Matter,” in which the author speaks of little brains:
The identification of little brains in the heart, gut, and other organs that are dedicated to self- regulation of the organs they subserve suggest that the autonomic nervous system is made up of local networks involved in maintaining the milieu intereurin in a manner not totally subservient to central neuronal.  That the internal nervous system is capable of processing information from multiple internal organs along with centripetal (to the brain) and centrifugal (from the brain) information in the maintenance of the milieu intereur represents a novel perspective with which to understand the totality of the human body. 
For purposes of this article, it may be well to point out that the human embryo does not develop a brain until he is 6 weeks old, yet he is a living human being, a human person, from the moment of conception. Therefore, human life is present independently from, and prior to, brain function. Anencephalic infants, who lack the upper part of the brain but have a brain stem, are also human persons. Individuals who are in a coma including those who have been labeled “brain-dead” are also living human persons, even if they require a ventilator. In fact, a ventilator can only be of use to a living human being because while the machine can inflate the lungs and provide oxygenated air, at the systemic level, respiration, the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is the task of the patient. 
The Brain is Not a Super-Organ
In his excellent introduction to Finis Vitae, editor, Dr. Paul A. Byrne tackles one of the most important medical myths that drives the “brain-death” (aka, “irreversible coma”) engine relentlessly forward, namely, that a man’s brain is a “super-controller” — the be-all and end-all of his existence.
Here are some basic facts about the brain presented by Byrne that clearly demonstrate why the medical criterion of “brain-death” is untenable.
- The brain is not a single unit. It is composed of several closely interrelated parts (cortex, cerebellum, midbrain, medulla, etc.) Though composed of superficially similar tissues and closely linked together both anatomically and physiologically, these parts can continue to live and act independently of one another, even when one or more of them has been destroyed. 
- The brain as a whole has no physiologically identifiable, single function that can rightly be called the “life-giving function” or the function of the brain as “organ of the whole.” 
- The brain has a large multiplicity of different functions that are characteristic of its different parts, each of which can function without the others. 
- None of these parts is in complete control of the others. 
- The loss of brain function or activity, whether reversible or irreversible, is not the same as the total or even partial destruction of the brain, nor does it automatically follow that the person suffering the loss of function is dead. 
- Destruction of the brain and cessation of its functioning and certain activities, are, in principle, directly observable, and such observations can serve as evidence. However, the prognosis of “irreversibility” of cessation of brain function is a criterion which is not an observable condition, and therefore, cannot serve as evidence nor be rightly made part of an empirical criterion of death. 
As Byrne notes, “…to regard the irreversibility of cessation of brain function as synonymous or interchangeable with destruction of the entire brain is to commit a compound fallacy: identifying the symptoms with their cause and assuming a single cause when several are possible. 
In his essay on the legal aspects of “brain death,” titled “Determining Death: Is Brain Death Reliable?” German-born jurist Rainer Beckmann reiterates Byrne’s analysis that while the brain is “vital” and it is essential for breathing, “there is no absolutely exceptional role of the brain concerning ‘self-activity’ and controlling.'”  According to Beckmann:
… the advocates of the concept of brain death do not see that the brain keeps the human being alive only in interaction with all the other vital organs: heart, lungs, kidneys, etc. From a systemic-biological point of view, the brain not only keeps heart, lungs, kidneys, etc. alive, but these organs also keep the brain alive. The brain can therefore not be seen as the absolutely decisive instance for the maintenance of life in a human being. 
In his concluding statement, Beckman, Vice-Chairman of the Jurists Society for the Right to Life, reiterates the same position that Dr. Byrne and every contributor to Finis Vitae defends, “The features of death, i.e., the end of the physical-spiritual unity and the biological unity of the organism as a whole, are not reliably indicated by the brain death criterion.” 
The Utilitarian Philosophy Behind “Brain Death”
Professor Roberto de Mattei, Vice-President of the National Research Council of Italy and editor of the Italian version of Finis Vitae, in “Genuine Science or False Philosophy?” opens the door to an examination of the anti-Christian and utilitarian philosophy that undergirds “brain death” as a definitive criterion for true death. It is a door which has been consistently closed and bolted shut by proponents of “brain death,” including many prominent Catholic clergy, professionals, and laymen.
De Mattei reminds the reader that the Ad Hoc Harvard Committee Report was dominated by a utilitarian and materialistic philosophical bias passed off as scientific fact. His quote from a letter dated October 30, 1967, by Henry K. Beecher, Chair of the Committee, to Robert Ebert, Dean of the Harvard Medical School, in which Beecher writes, “The time has come for a further consideration of the definition of death. Every major hospital has patients stacked up waiting for suitable donors,” confirms that bias. 
“The notion of brain death,” explains de Mattei, reflects an “inherent materialism which in fact identifies the vital core of the human being in brain activity itself” as taught by both Engels and Lenin.  This belief, he says, is in diametrical opposition to the philosophical foundation of Western civilization which holds that a human being is made up of soul and body, and indeed in its spiritual soul resides his vital core.” 
Man is More Than His Brain
Many of the contributors to Finis Vitae, including de Mattei, identify with Aristotelian-Thomistic thought, and uphold the traditional Catholic belief that the rationale soul is the one and only “substantial form” of the body.  As de Mattei explains, “Obviously ‘rational soul’ does not by any means indicate the intellectual functions of an individual, but rather the presence within the individual of a life principle of a spiritual nature which encompasses within itself, the potentiality of the operation of those functions.” 
Further, de Mattei states, “The generatio, i.e., the biological shaping of the body, does not follow, but rather precedes the infusion of the soul, just the way that biological death does not follow, but precedes that of the soul. This means, that at true death, it is the body that separates from the soul and that the cessation of all brain activities is the beginning, not the end, of the body’s progressive dissolution process. 
Complementing de Mattei’s presentation is an article by Professor Michael Potts of Methodist University, Fayetteville, N.C., titled “The Beginning and the End of Life-Toward Philosophical Consistency.” As Potts points out, “Issues at the edges of life are inevitably interdisciplinary, that is, they involve not only scientific matters, but also philosophical and theological ones.”  Potts’ section on the metaphysics of human personhood will be of special interest and value to pro-lifers currently engaged in state-wide “Personhood” legislation.
“Brain Death” as a Grave Metaphysical Error
One of the most intriguing and searing attacks on the criterion of “brain death” is Dr. Josef Seifert’s summary paper titled “On ‘Brain Death’ in Brief: Philosophical Arguments Against Equating It With Actual Death, and Responses to ‘Arguments’ in Favor of Such an Equation.” Professor Seifert is Rector of the International Academy for Philosophy in the principality of Liechtenstein and a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life.
Seifert traces one of the main root errors of so-called “brain death” to a false biological concept that views human life in terms of “an integrated whole of organs and cells,” rather than “human life … in its concrete incarnate form, derived solely from the presence of the intellective human soul in the body.”
Seifert goes further by reminding the reader that:
It is not the life of the soul in the body, but the life of the soul itself, which is also the deepest ground and source of personal life on earth; the human life on earth is precisely the life of the soul as long as it is united with the bodyand vivifies the body of the human person, bestowing its own life on the body and making the body participate in it. And this life can precisely also exist outside of, and apart from, the body, as the philosophical arguments for the immortality of the human soul show. In the light of these reflections on the nature and different data we call human life, we see more clearly why any reduction of human life to integrated function is wrong and why the loss of a part of bodily integration and co-ordination through brain stem death is no good reason to claim the death of the individual person (emphasis added). 
Among the conclusions set forth by Seifert is that a metaphysical notion of death has to guide our action, in that any reasonable doubt as to its occurrence must forbid operations which might bring it about.  This essay alone is worth the price of the book.
Bishop Bruskewitz on Extreme Unction and Homicide
Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of the Diocese of Lincoln Nebraska is the only hierarchical contributor to Finis Vitae. His essay, “A Brief Summary of Catholic Doctrine Regarding Human Life,” contains information on “brain death” which is unique to the Catholic perspective, especially his latter section on the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, that is, the anointing and absolution of living human beings who are seriously ill or dying. Its relevance for Catholic priests and chaplains is obvious since all sacraments are for the living not the dead.
Addressing the morality of acting on the criterion of “brain death” to secure unpaired healthy vital organs for a waiting transplant recipient from a “brain dead” patient, Bishop Bruskewitz, never a prelate to mince words, recalls the Catholic Church’s position on deliberate homicide as “a grievous mortal and spiritually lethal sin,” and then lowers the boom with this singular observation:
In the common estimation of humanity, to cut the beating heart out of a breathing person who is ingesting food, excreting waste, and responding to external stimuli, such as jabs and pokes by needles and knives, is considered an act of homicide. 
Pro-“Brain Death” Advocates Who Changed their Mind
Among the great strengths of Finis Vitae, are the candid essays written by professionals who either formally favored “brain death” criterion, or who were at least neutral on the subject. These articles are bound to make a deep impression upon the mind of the reader for they invariably touch upon the nagging, ever-present question which is at the heart of the “brain death” controversy, namely, “Do surgeons and other professionals in the transplantation field REALLY believe that “brain-dead” patients are truly dead?
The answer, of course, is “No.” “None of them are so naïve as to believe that people with dead brains (sic) are dead in the traditional biological sense of the irreversible loss of bodily integration,” or else why would they seek out and support a new definition or definitions of death.”  Indeed, by the late 1990s, some pro-transplant advocates like Dr. Robert D. Truog, Professor of Medical Ethics, Anesthesiology and Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, were advocating the abandonment of the “brain death” criterion altogether, in the belief that “killing may sometimes be a justifiable necessity for procuring transplantable organs.”  Truog also admitted that, “… the concept was never more than a social construction, developed to meet the needs of the transplantation enterprise during a crucial phase of its development.” 
The “Damascus Moment” for Dr. Weaver
In his introduction to his essay “Unpaired Vital Organ Transplantation,” from which I quoted extensively in Part I of this series, former transplant cardiologist Dr. Walt Franklin Weaver explains that until 1988, he willingly and enthusiastically participated in his hospital’s heart transplantation program. He said that the only contact he and his colleagues had with donors “was when their hearts arrive in a cooler from distant cities.” 
One day, Weaver said, “I was asked to consult on a 19-year-old brain injured potential ‘donor’ tentatively scheduled for a heart transplant to a patient in another city.” Weaver recalls that the simple act of sitting at the donor/patient’s bedside:
… promptly brought before me what I have known since the first successful heart transplant by Dr. Barnard in 1967. I had blinded myself to the fact that donors are most definitely ‘truly’ alive. … This 19-year-old ‘donor’ had all the signs of a living human being and none of the signs of the truly dead human being … He was receiving usual life-support technology and care and his vital signs were quite stable. However, with change in appearance or vital signs, the simple entry of a note indicating ‘brain death’ in his hospital record by a neurologist instantly marked him as a vulnerable and legally dehumanized human being who could be killed (by removal of his vital organs), experimented upon, or used for surgical teaching. … 
Weaver says that he experiences “a sense of remorse” when he reflects on “the plight of the unknown and faceless donors who lost their lives without the benefit of a longer trial of current and up-to-date life-support technology prior to their intended death from removal of their vital organs.” 
The Testimony of Pediatrician Joseph Evers
The moment of truth for pediatrician Dr. Joseph C. Evers concerning the deadly reality of “brain death” criterion came about when he was asked to chair a Pediatric Intensive Care Subcommittee at his local hospital in order to revise the existing protocol for diagnosing brain death in children for the purpose of vital organ removal and subsequent transplantation. This was the first time he was forced to “come to grips” with the scientific, legal and moral issues surrounding “brain death,” he said. 
Evers began his long journey with a literature search and a dialogue with his valued colleagues. Among the articles that immediately caught his interest was a report of a 24 year-old pregnant woman, who was declared “brain dead” on the 19th day of her hospitalization, but with the assistance of a ventilator lived 5 additional days, just in time to deliver a healthy 29-week-old baby. Evers questioned how it was possible for a “corpse” to nurture her unborn baby and give birth to a living child.  He also questioned the necessity of having so many different sets of “brain death” criteria — more than 30 by 1978 — and growing by leaps and bounds. 
Evers ultimately resigned from the protocol committee, but not before he told the entire medical staff the reason for his actions and urged them to vote against the protocol. Some did, but not enough and the “brain death” protocol became hospital policy. The pediatrician recalls that after that fateful meeting, a neurologist colleague of his approached him and said,” You know Joe, you’re right; we just wink at it.” 
Alan Shewmon — A Conversion in Three Stages
In 1992, D. Alan Shewmon, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, began his intellectual quest to investigate the “emergence of impressive counterevidence to the supposed medical ‘fact’ of ‘brain death,’ aka “higher brain death,” “whole brain death,” physiological decapitation.” Up until this time he had been a radical defender of “brain death,” as death.  Shewmon said that it took him until 1997 to venture forth publicly with his new views in opposition to “brain death,” and another nine years to develop additional insights and perspectives in support of those views. 
Among Shewmon’s striking observations and statements cited in his fascinating essay “Brain-Body Disconnection: Implications for the Theoretical Basis on Brain Death” are:
- “I daresay that doctors in general and neurologists in particular, have come to an overwhelming consensus that brain death is death, not because they have examined the evidence and concluded it for themselves, but purely and simply from a professional herd mentality.”
- Shewmon’s quote of a bone-chilling statement made by the late Dr. Ronald Cranford, longtime Chair if the Ethics Committee of the American Academy of Neurology, regarding the status of “permanently unconscious patients’ who have “characteristics of both the living and the dead.” “It would be tempting to call them dead and then retrospectively apply the principles of death, as society has done with brain death” opined Cranford (emphasis by Shewmon). 
- “To admit that many brain-dead patients are deeply comatose, severely disabled, living human beings is progress, not regress. It will force a refinement in our understanding and diagnosis of death, a clarification in our fundamental philosophical principles regarding human life, and a realignment between our understanding and our consciences in dealing with these most vulnerable human lives.” 
Finis Vitae Belongs in Your Lending Library
Finis Vitae belongs in your library, but never let it just sit on your book shelf. After you have read it carefully, keep the book in circulation. Loan your copy to family and friends, especially to card-carrying teenage “donors” and their parents, as well as your physician, lawyer, and priest, minister, or rabbi. Consider donating a copy to your local library or to the chaplaincy reading room at your local hospital? E-mail or call your state and federal legislators and find out where they stand on unpaired vital organ transplantation and “brain death” criterion. If they blurt out, “I don’t know,” educate them. Every pro-life group should have a representative of the Life Guardian Foundation address their members. People Concerned for the Unborn Child in Pittsburgh, PA, recently invited Dr. Paul Byrne, as guest speaker for their annual pro-life banquet. It was my honor to meet Dr. Byrne for the first time.
The Transplantation Industry Is On the Move
Make no mistake about it. The Transplantation Industry is on the move. It doesn’t have a heart, but it would sure like yours if it is beating and healthy. And it will say and do anything to get it.
This means you need to take action. At a minimum, all adults and older teens need to carry an “opt-out” medical donor card in their wallet or purse next to their driver’s license, and they should make their wishes known to their next of kin.  Also, I believe that there is a great need for the creation of an organization dedicated to tending to the needs and concerns of parents and relatives who, in almost all cases without informed consent, signed over their “brain dead” loved one for vital organ harvesting and have come to understand and regret the implications of their actions. Recent studies of heart transplant recipients, who come to understand that a “patient/donor” was killed so that he might live, are also in need of intensive psychological and spiritual counseling and therapy.
I don’t know how many people will read this column, but I hope and pray that the information provided here, thanks to Renew America, will be instrumental in saving at least one life, and one family from belatedly having to face the terrible truth behind the Industry’s deceptive and deadly mantra, “give the ‘Gift of Life.'”
© Randy Engel