Archive for the ‘*Brain Death’ Category

Dear Readers,

Today marks the 12th anniversary of the death of Terri Schiavo. A needless death and as far as I and many others believe, a death by murder. Personally, I think this marks a day of shame for America as a country and as a people, including religious and political leaders and representatives. I am especially ashamed of those who are Catholic and more especially of those who were bishops – every single one of them who did not take a forceful stand against Terri’s local bishop. In fact, four days after Terri’s feeding tube was removed, one of them stated that “The bishops and lay faithful of Florida have the task of leading American Catholics in the Terri Schiavo case. They’re working hard to provide that leadership. Our job, outside Florida, is to support Ms. Schiavo and all those concerned for her well-being with our prayers. We especially need to pray for Ms. Schiavo’s family”. Nonsense! The local bishop did nothing to save Terri or to help her family. What Terri and her family needed (in addition to prayers) was intercessory action. Lacking that, many Americans including bishops, failed them.

Please read Bobby Schindler’s story about his sister (below) and (if you haven’t in the past) my reflection on the twelve days I spent in Florida supporting Terri, her family and others who supported and fought for them. At the time, I was one of those “non-Floridians” and I didn’t see many “lay faithful of Florida” or from anywhere else. [see Calvary in Pinellas Park.] One further comment: never assume others are doing the job God has called each of us to do – we must be Christians without borders.

From Bobby Schindler:

Hi Fredi – Last year I wrote about my sister in National Review [original publication]. It’s as relevant now, and I’m sharing it today in case there’s someone in your life who could benefit from learning her story. [See full story copied below because Bobby wants his story shared and I find that most readers don’t click on external links.]

I wrote earlier this week about what we’re doing for Terri’s Day, and I wanted to update you to let you know there’s still time to support our mission and have your name placed in our special “Guest Book” that we’ll be presenting to my mother in honor of your support and in memory of my sister.  [Learn about Terri’s day here.]

Our work continues only with support from you. Please consider a gift in honor of Terri today, during this painful time of year for my mother and our family. [Go to]

God bless you,


What Terri Schiavo Still Can Teach Us

by Bobby Schindler March 31, 2016

Her name — my sister’s name — is seared into the national memory as a face of the right-to-life movement, but it’s now been more than a decade since her death. Many are now too young to remember her witness, or they have forgotten.

At the age of 26, Terri experienced a still-unexplained collapse while at home alone with Michael Schiavo, who subsequently became her guardian. After a short period of time, Michael lost interest in caring for his brain-injured but otherwise young and healthy wife. Terri was cognitively disabled, but she was not dying, and she did not suffer from any life-threatening disease. She was neither on machines nor “brain dead.” To the contrary, she was alert and interacted with friends and family — before Michael placed her in a nursing home and eventually petitioned the courts for permission to starve and dehydrate her to death.

It was this decision by Michael that made my sister’s story a national story rather than simply a family story. It was this decision — to deprive my sister of food and water — that transformed our family’s struggle. Rather than trying to work with Michael to care for and rehabilitate Terri as aggressively as possible, we now were battling against Michael to fight for my sister’s life.

Michael finally testified, after many years of legal maneuverings against my family, that Terri had told him before her accident that she would not have wanted to live in a brain-injured condition. It was this hearsay evidence that led the media and others to deny Terri’s right to life, and instead speak of “end of life” issues and advocate for her “right to die.” On the order of Judge George W. Greer, and despite the efforts of Saint John Paul the Great, a president, Congress, and a governor, Terri was deprived of water and food. After 13 days, my sister died of extreme dehydration on March 31, 2005.

We couldn’t save my sister, though millions of advocates did succeed in speaking for the fundamental dignity of every human life, regardless of circumstance or condition.

It was the trauma of our experience fighting for my sister that led my family to create the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network a decade ago, both in memory of my sister and in service to medically vulnerable persons today. Unbeknownst to my family at the start of our struggle, the method of Terri’s death — the fatal denial of food and water — was not altogether uncommon. It has only become more common in the decade since her passing, as Wesley J. Smith so routinely documents.

Indeed, new “rights” to death are paradoxically being enshrined through the international medical system, reshaping a vocation meant to care for and heal the sick into one that eliminates suffering by eliminating the sufferer. Increasingly, medical professionals do this — end life — even without the patient’s consent. A stranger, in other words, may very well decide how and when you die.

It was once true, for instance, that food and water were considered “basic and ordinary care.” Yet now the presence of a tube (as distinct from a spoon) to deliver food and water means that basic nourishment is considered “extraordinary” and a form of “medical treatment.” Yet tubes are often used for the same reason that automation is revolutionizing the work force: They’re cheaper and more efficient than round-the-clock human care. It is now legal in every U.S. state to deny food and water, leading to fatal dehydration. This is simply one step on the path to controlled and regulated access to all forms of food and water, including whatever a bureaucrat decides can be placed on your mother’s nursing-home supper tray.

Hospital ethics committees are often leading the effort to reshape medicine, giving themselves unilateral power to decide whether a patient deserves to receive treatment or whether life-affirming treatment will continue when there is a dispute within a family. The tragic case of Chris Dunn, who was filmed last year literally begging for his life in a Texas hospital, illustrates all too well what happens when an ethics committee decides to appoint itself as a legal guardian in order to deny treatment — even when such a course is opposed, as it was in Dunn’s case, by both the patient and his guardian-mother.

Not only is death often imposed, it is now also encouraged as if death itself were a form of medicine. As of last year, more than half the states in the country were considering a form of physician-assisted suicide legislation. It appears likely that suicide will, within the next five years, be enshrined as a personal “health” right in most of the country. In this, we would only be following some of our European neighbors. In the Netherlands and Belgium, as Wesley Smith recently documented, Alzheimer’s patients, infants with disabilities, the aged, and the chronically ill are routinely encouraged to die or have death imposed upon them.

Brittany Maynard, who committed suicide in November 2014 after already having outlived her doctor’s terminal-brain-cancer prognosis, was able to choose her death by suicide, but how many now will die not because they embrace that sort of death but because they feel pressured — by smiling physicians or hovering children and heirs — to accept it? To die without hope seems the furthest thing from death with dignity. Other, less fortunate patients will face what Smith explains is considered “termination without request or consent,” a wonderfully anodyne way to describe murder through terminal sedation or the denial of food and water.

My experience in fighting for my sister, and the experiences of assisting more than 1,000 patients and families through the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network over the past decade, have strengthened my resolve and my belief that we can do better as a culture, and for those requiring authentic medical treatment, than what our present attitudes and laws suggest.

It’s why the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network affirms essential qualities of human dignity, including the right to food and water, the presumption of the will to live, due-process rights for those facing denial of care, protection from euthanasia as a form of medicine, and access to rehabilitative care. Each of these were rights my sister was denied, and they are rights of every patient that are often at risk or contested outright.

As we mark the anniversary of my sister’s death, I’m hopeful that we can remember some of these genuine means of upholding human dignity. If we do, we can be assured that when we face crisis in our own lives and the lives of those whom we love, we will meet the moment with a dignity and grace that elevates us in our weakest moments — regardless of the outcome.

That was the promise of medicine once, and it’s what my sister continues to inspire me to fight for daily.

— Bobby Schindler is president of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, author of A Life That Matters: The Legacy of Terri Schiavo, and an internationally recognized pro-life advocate.

[See Calvary in Pinellas Park.]


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Four doctors have signed a declaration stating Jahi McMath is not brain dead. The family attorney Chris Dolan says he will petition the California Secretary of State to rescind the death certificate. From the

“Dolan provided NJ Advance Media with signed declarations from four doctors, including Charles J. Prestigiacomo, director of Cerebrovascular and Endovascular Neurosurgery at University Hospital in Newark and chair of the neurological surgery department at Rutgers, stating that McMath isn’t brain dead.” Please click here to read the story and view an interview between Dave Hutchinson and Jahi’s family attorney.

RELATED: *Brain Death

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It doesn’t matter whether or not they resided within your diocese. Please Christ-up for the next victim for whom you have the opportunity to intercede.

All Life Matters: Jahi Mcmath’s Journey

by Michelle Malkin

“Jahi McMath is ALIVE.”

The very first column I filed in 2014 exposed the plight of a beautiful young girl, the same age as my daughter, whom medical experts declared “brain dead” after a routine tonsillectomy gone wrong. Are you ready for the rest of the story?

Doctors told Jahi’s mom, Nailah Winkfield, that her child’s organs would “shut down” and her brain would “liquefy” if kept on life support. Hostile hospital administrators in Oakland moved to pull the plug on Jahi. Medical officials callously referred to Jahi as “dead, dead, dead” and dismissed the child as a “body.” Smug critics mocked and hounded the family to give up and let go. Jahi’s life, they concluded, was worthless. But the experts and naysayers were wrong. CONTINUE

Terri Schivo’s murder: Calvary in Pinellas Park 

by Fredi D’Alessio

I will never forget my pilgrimage to ‘calvary’ in Pinellas Park, Florida on behalf of my sister Terri and her family. I was so very blessed to have been able to be there to support them and to advocate for Terri’s right to life. I cherish them and the people who stood in solidarity with them, mostly having come from long distances. Of the many fine people I was privileged to meet, I remember with special fondness a young family of eight from Ohio who put aside every other concern and without much planning hurriedly loaded their van with bare essentials and began the long drive to Pinellas Park.

Along with harboring warm feelings for the Schindler family and their supporters, my heart grieves Terri’s cold-blooded murder. Being present at the scene of that crime – in the midst of or close by the victims, the intervenors, the perpetrators, the politicians, the police, and the news media – subjected my whole being to a rivalry of emotions and a variety of experiences and encounters. But rather than reflect on what being there was like, I have chosen to reflect on what being there was about.

So many, if not most, of those who have spoken or written about Terri’s plight have missed the point. It matters not in the least what Terri’s physical condition was. No justification could be made for taking her life no matter who the ‘experts’ are or how many words they spout.

Of my twelve days and nights in Florida, most were passed in prayer outside the hospice in Pinellas Park. A few days were spent in support of Terri in Tallahassee at Florida’s House and Senate committee hearings, and lobbying at Senator and Governor offices. I also participated in two candlelight prayer vigils outside the Governor’s Mansion during which we pleaded with the Governor via an intercom at the gate to do everything possible to save Terri.

I do not agree with those who have proposed that our role, as non-Floridians, was to support Terri and all those concerned for her well being with our prayers. Yes, of course we should have supported them with prayers, but not merely with prayers of petition. God wants to communicate with us when we pray. The petition He wants most from us is that we may obtain the graces and virtues that are necessary to not only know his will, but also to actively abide by it. He wants us to be his instruments of love, mercy, justice and peace.

Terri is sister to each and every person on earth. God entrusts each and every human life, not only to parents, but also to each and every one of us. To be an authentic disciple of Christ Jesus each of us must accept that responsibility.

The universal Church must be united in the acceptance of that responsibility. Neither borders nor domains, even if they exist within Her own structure (as in dioceses, provinces and regions), can excuse Her (us) from actively reaching out – not merely speaking out. This is particularly so when the ‘local Church’ has been negligent in Her duties and discipleship (as it was in Terri’s case). Supporting those who are in error is not unifying; it is destructive.

When bishops, priests, deacons and laity neglect to intervene on behalf of those at risk and fail to boldly, emphatically and persistently preach the Gospel of Life and correct and admonish those in error about grave issues such as abortion, euthanasia, cloning, embryo production and destruction for any reason, or any other crime against humanity, the stage is set for all of these tragedies to occur. We have been stagehands for decades now, having embraced a disregard for human life and even become desensitized to millions of murders of unborn babies. One of the ways in which that disregard and insensitivity is demonstrated daily is by our lack of intervention at the numerous baby-killing centers throughout our country where thousands of babies are murdered every day. Every bishop and pastor in the nation should have been preaching about Terri’s right to life from the pulpit and imploring us to become actively involved with her family in their fight for her life.

Pope John Paul II could not have made that point any clearer in his encyclical (Evangelium Vitae) to bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, and lay faithful, which begins with: “The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus’ message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as ‘good news’ to the people of every age and culture.” The introduction closes with: “To all the members of the Church, the people of life and for life, I make this most urgent appeal, that together we may offer this world of ours new signs of hope, and work to ensure that justice and solidarity will increase and that a new culture of human life will be affirmed, for the building of an authentic civilization of truth and love.”

In ‘A Note On Liturgical Norms for Homilies’ Fr. Frank Pavone points out: “Liturgy is, ultimately, a life-giving encounter with God. There can be no more appropriate setting in which to proclaim and defend the gift of life. The liturgical laws of the Church certainly leave the door wide open for such a proclamation and defense!”

Those who stood as advocates for life at ‘calvary’ in Pinellas Park, Florida did so with the “dauntless fidelity” called for by the Holy Father. They came with hope that Terri’s life would be saved and with love to help the Shindler family carry their cross.

I don’t think there is a better way to close this reflection than with the following excerpt from Pope John Paul II’s farewell message given during the official departure ceremony for him at the Detroit Airport on 19 September 1987:

“America, your deepest identity and truest character as a nation is revealed in the position you take towards the human person. The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones. The best traditions of your land presume respect for those who cannot defend themselves. If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then, America, defend life! … Every human person – no matter how vulnerable or helpless, no matter how young or how old, no matter how healthy, handicapped or sick, no matter how useful or productive for society – is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God. This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival – yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn.”




“Terri and her family”

“Evangelium Vitae”

“A Note On Liturgical Norms for Homilies”

“Pope John Paul II’s farewell message given at the Detroit Airport on 19 September 1987”



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By Drs. Jay Boyd and Paul A. Byrne
Published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review OCTOBER 29, 2014

[This essay is based in part on a sermon given in 2010 by an anonymous priest of the FSSP. See the audio link at the end of this article if you wish to listen that sermon.]

It is likely that most Catholics consider the question of the morality of organ donation to be a settled matter, and to view it as a noble and generous gesture on the part of donors. After all, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us:

Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good sought for the recipient. Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent. Moreover, it is not morally admissible to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons. (§2296)

A quick scan of this short summary of a complicated topic suggests that there’s nothing wrong with organ donation, as long as the donor gives his consent, and is neither killed, nor sustains disabling mutilation in order to take his organs. Thus, many good Catholics, in the authors’ experience, believe that “the Church says organ donation is okay,” and leave it at that.

However, the picture becomes much more complicated when one considers the transplantation of vital, unpaired organs, such as the heart, or whole liver. The CCC tells us that organ donation in these situations is permitted “after death,” but that phrase requires us to understand what death really is. It is only on examining the way in which death is currently declared, that we discover the horrific problems with organ donation.

Our faith tells us that the moment of separation of the soul from the body is the moment of true death (CCC §1005). Since we cannot observe the separation of the soul from the body, we must rely on other, visible means of determining death.

There are a number of indisputable signs that death has occurred. After death, the body does not respond to stimuli, and it shows significant physical changes observable at the microscopic and gross levels of pathology, manifested by absence of functioning, and in structural alteration. These signs are sufficient to indicate that the life-body unity no longer exists. After death, these pathologic changes continue. They cannot be stopped—only slowed or delayed by cooling, embalming, mummifying, salting, etc.

Prior to advances in organ transplantation, the definition of death was simple, direct, and sensible, as indicated in an article from the New England Journal of Medicine (throughout this essay, emphases added): “Before the development of modern critical care, the diagnosis of death was relatively straightforward. Patients were dead when they were cold, blue, and stiff.”1

But these observable signs are not the indications the medical community currently looks for, due to a “redefinition” of death over the last several decades—a redefinition that is due primarily to the fact that “organs from these traditional cadavers (i.e., those bodies that are cold, blue, and stiff, without circulation and respiration) cannot be used for transplantation.”2 In order for organ transplantation to occur in a legitimately moral sense, death would have to be redefined and the law changed.

Traditionally, the cessation of heartbeat and breathing were regarded as the signs of death. Black’s Law Dictionary defined death as: “The cessation of life; the ceasing to exist; defined by physicians as a total stoppage of the circulation of the blood, and a cessation of the animal and vital functions consequent thereon, such as respiration, pulsation, etc.”3This traditional definition of death served an important purpose, even before organ transplants became feasible, though. For instance, some 50 years ago, moral theologian Francis J. Connell, CSSR, was posed a question concerning embalming:

In view of the modern opinion that apparent death (mors apparens) may precede real death (mors vera) by a considerable period of time, what admonition should be given to our people, particularly to Catholic undertakers, as to how soon the process of embalming can be started after a person has apparently breathed his last.4

It may seem to be a leap to a different subject to consider the prerequisites for the commencement of embalming, but there are significant parallel issues here with organ donation, so let’s take a look at Fr. Connell’s answer:

The main principle is this: the process of embalming may not be commenced until it is certain that life is extinct, for undoubtedly, if the person is still alive, the embalming process will directly cause death. Furthermore, mere probability, even very great probability, that death is insured will not justify the beginning of this process, for it is not permissible to do anything which even only probably will directly cause the death of an innocent person.5

Morally, then: a) the process of embalming may not commence, until it is certain that life is extinct; and b) it is not permissible to do anything which even only probably will directly cause the death of an innocent person.

Now, consider the following situation: Suppose an embalmer begins to make an incision on the body of a (supposedly) deceased person, when suddenly the corpse begins twitching and grimacing. In light of the moral principles stated by Fr. Connell, does it seem reasonable to continue the embalming, as scheduled? Or would it be reasonable to conclude that the proper thing to do would be to give the corpse an anesthetic, so the body would stop twitching, and then continue the embalming? Surely, we would have to answer both questions in the negative; it seems beyond doubt, that if the embalmer continues, a living person would be killed.

If we simply substitute a phrase indicating organ donation in the comments by Fr. Connell, it becomes clear that the transplantation of a vital, unpaired organ is, in reality, an immoral act.

To draw the parallel further, suppose an embalmer is asked to perform the procedure on a body in another room; when the embalmer arrives, he sees that the “corpse” is actually breathing with a ventilator. He has a heartbeat with circulation, has wounds that are healing, and is producing urine. In light of those same moral principles, outlined above, should the embalmer agree to proceed with the embalming, as requested? Obviously the answer is “no,” because to do so would be to definitively kill a human being who shows many signs of life. And yet, this is the condition of most organ donors at the moment that the organs are to be removed and transplanted.

In contrast to the definition of a traditional cadaver, currently there are two basic criteria for determining death: a neurological criterion (in the USA: nonfunctioning of the whole brain, including the brain stem; in the UK: nonfunctioning of the brain stem); and a cardiopulmonary criterion (irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions).6

Let’s consider the cardiopulmonary criterion first. For the physical life of a person to continue, the person must take in oxygen, water, and nutrients. Carbon dioxide is exhaled and waste products are passed in urine and stool. Therefore, ventilation and respiration are required; ventilation is simply the movement of air, while respiration is the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs, and via circulation in all tissues. Heartbeat, or pulse, is intrinsic to the heart, which has its own nerves that cause heart muscle to contract and stop contracting; the heart beats without impulses from the brain.

If breathing and circulation stop, chest compressions must be initiated quickly, in order for life to continue. Sometimes a ventilator, commonly mislabeled as a respirator, is used. Chest compressions and a ventilator can support respiration in a living person, but not in a cadaver. When such efforts at ventilation and respiration are successful, it is only because the person is living, not dead. In a dead body, air can be forced into the airways and lungs, and elastic recoil might push air out for a few cycles; but then compliance and elastance are lost, and air cannot get in or out. After true death, neither chest compressions, nor a ventilator, can be effective to support ventilation, respiration, and circulation.

Without respiration and circulation, the health of the person deteriorates, and death will occur, unless breathing and circulation are restored quickly. This deterioration is manifest in cessation of vital activities and pathologic changes, such as disintegration, dissolution, lysis, destruction, corruption, decay, and putrefaction of cells and tissues of organs and systems. Thus, the truly dead body cannot be an organ donor, as the vital organs are quickly compromised and begin to deteriorate. On the other hand, a person whose vital organs are functioning, cannot be considered to be truly dead, according to the traditional definition. It is this fact that made it necessary to create a neurological criterion for death—which essentially changes the definition of death.

The history of the “redefinition” of death is rather chilling, when one considers that such redefinitions began evolving as organ transplants became more and more possible and successful. The redefinitions stem from a desire to make use of the organs of someone labeled as “recently deceased,” in order to save the lives of living patients desirous of vital organs as transplants. But as we noted above, a truly deceased person cannot be a suitable organ donor, as his organs no longer have circulation and respiration.

This is where—and why—the neurological definition of death—or “brain death”—comes into play. A patient with heartbeat, respiration, and/or circulation cannot rightly be called a cadaver, a corpse, a dead body. Not coincidentally, prior to true death, patients are sometimes labeled “brain dead” (or sometimes “apparently dead” or “as good as dead”), especially when there is an interest in converting such patients into organ donors. If the label, “probably dead,” or “apparently dead,” (mors apparens) is applied to a potential donor who is not truly dead, he will certainly be truly dead after the beating heart is cut out! As we can see from the Catechism, to take action that will cause death, based on the mere probability that death is about to occur, is a violation of justice.

The medical community, however, continues to struggle with the question of how to “harvest” organs, without appearing to kill the donor in the process. Those who do not hold to a Catholic view of life and/or death seem to view current life-preserving technologies as more of a means for harvesting organs, than for prolonging life. For instance, Crowe and Cohen noted that, in modern times, there are “new problems” associated with defining death:

… in particular, the problem of defining when death has occurred in the age of ventilators and feeding tubes, and how the definition of death (both conceptually, and in practice), shapes the possibility of procuring usable organs from the deceased.

… The reason that the definition of death, and the ethics of organ procurement are so closely linked in the public imagination is that the source of cadaveric organs has always been the newly dead. A newly dead person fulfills two fundamental requirements for being a source of organs. First, he is close enough to the living that his organs have not been so long deprived of oxygen as to become nonfunctional. Second, he is no longer an inviolable subject in the same way: the dead body can be mistreated or wronged, but the dead person cannot experience physical harm.7

As heart transplants, in particular, became more desirable and possible, another problem arose: the law requires that the donor of a vital organ—like a heart—be dead before the organ is removed. This is known as the “dead donor law”; and with a standard definition of cardiac death, heart transplants are not possible. Why? Because the definition requires irreversible stoppage of the heartbeat and accompanying respiration. But, as another author has noted:

It is impossible to transplant a heart successfully after irreversible stoppage: if a heart is restarted, the person from whom it was taken cannot have been dead according to cardiac criteria. Removing organs from a patient whose heart, not only can be restarted, but also has been, or will be, restarted in another body, is ending a life by organ removal.8

Thus, the concept of “brain death” emerged; 40 years ago, an ad hoc committee at Harvard Medical School suggested revising the definition of death in a way that would make some patients with devastating neurologic injury suitable for organ transplantation under the dead donor rule.

… The concept of brain death has served us well, and has been the ethical and legal justification for thousands of life-saving donation and transplantations. Even so, there have been persistent questions about whether patients with massive brain injury, apnea, and loss of brain stem reflexes are really dead.9

This is a striking statement, and one that should give us pause! From the viewpoint of Catholic moral teaching, if there is any question at all, to say nothing of persistentquestions, about whether a patient is really dead, then this is a grave moral problem for the medical community, regarding organ transplantations. The above authors go on to explain why there have been persistent questions about whether or not so-called “brain dead” patients are really dead.

… (W)hen injuries are entirely intracranial, these patients look very much alive. They are warm and pink; they digest and metabolize food; excrete waste; undergo sexual maturation; and can even reproduce. To a casual observer, they look just like patients who are receiving long-term artificial ventilation and are asleep. The arguments about why these patients should be considered dead have never been fully convincing.10

This seems to us to be a reflection of the culture of death philosophy that says life is not worth living, once a certain level of physiological dysfunction is reached; it is this philosophy that leads to the advocacy of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Whereas, respect for life tells us that all life—no matter how close it is to death—is sacred, the culture of death tells us that the life of a person as described above is “not worth living”—that the person would be “better off dead.” In a review of a book called Brain Death, we find the following:

Some persons who reliably defined as brain-dead have clinically significant residual functioning as evidenced by electro-encephalographic activity, unexpected survival, attempts to sit up, reproducible eye-opening in response to pain, head movements in response to stimulation. Most perplexing, children who have been given a diagnosis of brain death continue to grow, and pregnant women have delivered healthy infants up to four months after having been given a diagnosis of brain death.11

These are, indeed, perplexing observations. How is it possible (as noted above) that “brain dead” children can “continue to grow”? The case of Jahi McMath is one of the most recent stories concerning the questionable diagnosis of “brain death.”12 This 13-year-old girl was declared legally dead by hospital staff, after suffering complications from a routine tonsillectomy; since “brain death” is the definition of legal death in California, it was the criterion used to pronounce Jahi’s “death.” Dr. Paul Byrne, who has been at the bedside of Jahi, writes that:

Jahi’s heart is beating 100,000 times a day, a rate similar to most persons on earth. … Jahi’s pulse and blood pressure are normal and strong. Jahi digests her food, puts out urine, and has bowel movements. … Jahi’s temperature is 98 with only a blanket to help keep her warm. Her body metabolism keeps her temperature warm. … The only machine used to treat Jahi is a ventilator to push air into her. Jahi pushes the air out. The ventilator is effective only in a living person. The ventilator does not make Jahi’s heart beat.13 Jahi’s heart has beat naturally without the aid of heart stimulating drugs or a pacemaker more than 15 million times since the Coroner issued a Certificate of Death. What kind of laws do we have?

And yet, doctors have said Jahi McMath is “brain dead,” and Jahi’s mother has had to fight for the legal right to have her daughter receive medical treatment because of this “verdict.”

Similarly, how is it that a woman who has been dead for four months can give birth to a healthy child? Recently, two cases of “brain dead” pregnant women have been in the news. In one case,14 the woman’s husband asked that his wife be kept on life support in order for the child within her to reach a point in his growth where he would survive birth (and this indeed was accomplished, with the result being the birth of a healthy—if premature—baby boy). In the other case,15 the husband fought for the legal right to remove his wife from life support, knowing full well that the baby within her would also die. This, too, was accomplished (resulting in the deaths of both mother and baby), under the label of “brain death” of the mother, but the baby was executed when the ventilator for the mother was stopped.

Finally, how is it, as the article cited above noted, that dead people can make “attempts to sit up”? How is it that dead people can have “reproducible eye opening in response to pain”? How is it that dead people can have “head movements in response to stimulation”? How is it that “some persons reliably have clinically significant residual functioning as evidenced by unexpected survival. …”? Unexpected revival might be a better term in some cases: a 2008 article provides another example of the non-death of a “brain dead” patient:

A Virginia family was shocked, but relieved, when their mother woke up after doctors said she was dead. Fifty-nine-year-old Mrs. Thomas was being kept breathing artificially, with no detectable brain waves for more than 17 hours. The family were discussing organ donation options for their mother, when she suddenly woke up and started speaking to the nurses.16

Another case occurred is 2009, and was still under investigation in 2013: Doctors at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center (Syracuse, New York) were about to remove organs for transplant from a woman they thought was dead. Then she opened her eyes. She was alive.17

It appears that in some circumstances, the passage of time can reverse the diagnosis of brain death, by virtue of the allegedly dead person coming back to life! But time is not always a commodity granted to these patients; in fact, often, time is taken away from them. A statement from the book review mentioned above notes: “With respect to diagnosis (of death) … the observation period can certainly be shortened if a recipient is waiting, and … a second opinion is not recommended because it may jeopardize harvesting of organs.”18

According to this source, then, the important thing is not whether or not the donor is actually dead, but rather, avoiding anything (such as a second opinion!) which would jeopardize the transplantation of vital organs. Returning to the Truog and Miller article, we find this telling assertion:

The arguments about why these patients should be considered dead, have never been fully convincing. The definition of brain death requires a complete absence of all functions of the brain, yet many of these patients retain essential neurologic functions. … Some have argued that these patients are dead because they are permanently unconscious, which is true, but if this is the justification, then patients in a permanent vegetative state, who breathe spontaneously, should also be diagnosed as dead, a characterization that most regard as implausible. … Others have claimed that brain dead patients are dead because their brain damage has led to the current cessation of the organism as a whole. Yet evidence shows that, if these patients are supported beyond the acute phase of their illness, which is rarely done, they can survive for many years.19

Let us remind ourselves that “traditional cadavers”—those deceased individuals who are cold, blue, and stiff—do not “survive for many years.” In fact, in the case of a traditional cadaver, if it is not embalmed, it must be buried quickly, because it starts to decompose. Decomposition does not occur in a “brain dead” patient.

Truog and Miller come to what they call “the uncomfortable conclusion” that: “… although it may be perfectly ethical to remove vital organs for transplantation from patients who satisfy the diagnostic criterion for brain death, the reason that it is ethical cannot be that we are convinced that they are really dead.”20

Frankly, any informed Catholic should disagree that it is “perfectly ethical” to remove organs from such patients, because, clearly, “brain dead” people are not dead. They arenot traditional cadavers. Once their vital organs are removed, then they become traditional cadavers, and then they will become cold, blue, and stiff. It is the removal of their vital organs that kills them.21

In a 2001 article on organ transplantation, Bishops Fabian W. Bruskewitz and Robert F. Vasa and their coauthors offer a clear statement of the moral unacceptability of removing vital organs from “brain dead” patients.

All men of good will must properly understand, and explicitly follow, the applicable theologic and moral laws. These laws are: no unpaired, vital organ can be morally removed from a living human person; there should be no commercial traffic in human organs; people, especially the young, must fully comprehend that when they agree to be organ donors, they give transplant surgeons a license to terminate their lives.

… People must fully comprehend that when they agree to be organ donors, they give transplant surgeons a license to terminate their lives. When healthy, vital organs are taken in accordance with the legal common practice of medicine, the donor is killed. The donor is treated and prepared for surgery in a way similar to any living patient going to the operating room. After removal of healthy, vital organs, what is left is an empty corpse. Such removal is ethically unacceptable. It is the removal of the organs that changes the living person to a dead one. It is unethical for transplantation surgeons to continue performing such procedures that mutilate a living human body. These procedures treat the donors as if they were artificially sustained biologic entities, rather than human persons, worthy of dignity and respect. The removal of a healthy, unpaired, vital organ, suitable for transplantation, from someone who has been declared legally “brain dead,” but is not truly, biologically dead, is not ethically acceptable. Evil may not be done, that good might come of it.22

On a practical level, we must ask three questions. First of all, what does this mean for those of us who are trying to be faithful soldiers in the Church Militant, and thereby save our immortal souls? In terms of donation, it means that we must not sign any kind of organ donation agreement on the back of our driver’s license or anywhere else. For most people, once the truth is known about organ donation procedures, the definition of “brain death,” and the countless stories of those who have recovered from “brain death,” this is probably a foregone conclusion. Pope John Paul II stated: “Vital organs which occur singly in the body can be removed only after death; that is, from the body of someone who is certainly dead.”23 Pope Benedict XVI, in similar words, taught: “Individual vital organs cannot be extracted except ex cadavere.”24 Ex cadavere (Latin) means from a stone cold cadaver—dead, truly dead.

Secondly, what does this mean for the potential recipients of transplanted organs? This is a tougher question, at least on the level of human emotions. Even more common than the stories of “brain dead” people returning to life, are the heartbreaking stories of people who need new hearts, or other vital organs, in order to overcome a life-threatening situation. For instance, known to one of the authors of this essay is a family with three children, who have heart problems that will almost certainly result in their early death. Two of the children have received heart transplants already, and the community has offered much emotional and financial support to the family. In such a situation, the pastor who preaches about the immorality of vital organ transplantation is probably taking his own life in his hands, even amongst his own Catholic flock! It is one thing to tell people not to sign organ donation agreements, because this is a rather impersonal statement, and involves only a hypothetical situation in which the potential donor might find himself at some point. However, it is quite another thing to say that a particular individual should not be the recipient of an ill-gotten organ, because in such a scenario, we may personally know the individual, and the situation is no longer hypothetical. And yet, given what we have reviewed here, in terms of the condition of vital organ donors, it is clear that, no matter what our medical condition, and how dire the straits in which we find ourselves (or our loved ones), we may not accept any sort of transplant organ cut out of one of our “brain dead,” or “cardiac dead,” brothers or sisters.

Thirdly, what does our conclusion mean for those in the medical community? It means that no matter what it may cost them personally and professionally, medical professionals must put these sorts of procedures in the same moral category as tubal ligations, abortions, and contraception, inasmuch as evil may not be done, that good may come of it. “Brain dead” organ donor patients are not dead; they are alive. And when healthy, vital organs are taken out of organ donors, in accordance with the common legal practice of medicine in effect today, the donor is killed.

Why has this become such a difficult issue? In part, the answer lies with the culture of death and a watering-down of Catholic teaching. Besides the obvious emotional tug, especially when children are involved, there is a lack of understanding, even among Catholics, of the salvific value of suffering. This is something that appears to be not often preached, and most people seem to believe that whatever their illness might be, the medical profession ought to be able to cure it, or at least prolong the life of the individual, well into adulthood. Because of this way of thinking, many people would not be willing to forego organ transplants, even if they are told that the donor is not truly dead when the organ is taken. Self-preservation is a natural instinct; and fallen human nature gives us a great capacity for justifying our actions in this regard, and for turning a blind eye to the side of a situation that makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Add to this, the culture of death attitude that downplays, or outright denies, the sanctity of life from true conception until true death. The culture of death also twists words to suit its evil purposes, as we have seen endlessly where the issue of abortion is concerned: people are “pro-choice,” rather than “pro-abortion”; we are faced with “the pregnancy,” as opposed to “the fetus,” or “the baby”; “reproductive rights” are touted, rather than the more honest “abortion on demand.” Similarly, the organ transplant “industry” has found words to obscure the real condition of donor patients; they have simply “redefined” death (that is, they have changed the criteria to declare death) to suit their desires. These new “definitions of death” are contortions of the truth. And they’re killing our brothers and sisters!

This essay is based in part on a sermon given in 2010 by an anonymous priest of the FSSP. The audio file is available at A transcription of the actual sermon is available

  1. Truog, R.D., & Miller, F.G. (Aug. 14, 2008) The Dead Donor Rule and Organ Transplantation, New England Journal of Medicine. Available
  2. Ibid. 
  3. Black’s Law Dictionary, (4th ed.) West Publishing Co., St Paul. MN (1968)  at 488. 
  4. Father Connell Answers Moral Questions, Francis J. Connell and Eugene J. Weitzel, Catholic University of America Press, 1959. 
  5. Ibid.
  6. Crowe, S., & Cohen, E. (2006) Organ Transplantation Policies and Policy Reforms; available at
  7. Ibid.
  8. Veatch, R.M. (Aug. 14, 2008) Donating Hearts after Cardiac Death Reversing the Irreversible, New England Journal of Medicine, available
  9. Truog, R.D., & Miller, F.G. (Aug. 14, 2008) The Dead Donor Rule and Organ Transplantation, New England Journal of Medicine. Available at
  10. Ibid.
  11. The article is a book review by Thomas E. Finucane, MD, available online The book is Brain Death, edited by Wijdicks, E. F. M., Philadelphia, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2001. 
  12. See; a good summary of the case is also given
  13. See Dr. Byrne has written a series of articles about Jahi McMath and the issues surrounding her diagnosis of “brain death”, all available at RenewAmerica. 
  18. Book review by Thomas E. Finucane, MD, available online
  19. Truog, R.D., & Miller, F.G. (Aug. 14, 2008) The Dead Donor Rule and Organ Transplantation, New England Journal of Medicine. Available at
  20. Ibid.
  21. If vital organs may not morally be removed from “brain dead” people, can anything be cut out of truly dead people, traditional cadavers, or corpses, and used for transplantation? The answer is yes: After death, tissues such corneas, heart valves, bones, connective tissues, may still be useful for transplantation. Note that these are tissues, not organs; they may be taken only after death because excision of some of these tissues would otherwise cause mutilation or death. 
  22. Bruskewitz FW, Vasa RF, Weaver WF, Byrne PA, Nilges RG, and Seifert, J. “Are Organ Transplants Ever Morally Licit?”, Catholic World Report, 2001 Mar;11(3):50-56, available online at
  23. Pope John Paul II, address to 18th International Congress of the Transplantation Society, August 29, 2000. 
  24. Pope Benedict XVI, Nov 7, 2008. 


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Family of Jahi McMath Honored March 27th in Philadelphia

Philadelphia, PA / February 26, 2014 – Since 2007, Terri Schiavo’s family has marked the anniversary of her death on March 31, 2005 by celebrating Terri’s Day. Through the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network (Narberth, PA), they have channeled the national controversy that erupted over the court-ordered decision that ended Terri’s life by removing her feeding tube into a positive effort of awareness, education and advocacy that supports thousands of families worldwide.

This year, two events will be held in Philadelphia. Glenn Beck, nationally recognized radio personality, founder of The Blaze Network, and seven-time New York Times bestselling author, will be the honored speaker at the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network’s 2nd Annual Award Gala and dinner on Thursday, March 27th at the Union League of Philadelphia.

The evening will include the presentation of the “Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Award,” which honors an individual or family who fought to protect the dignity of a loved one against overwhelming odds. This year’s recipient will be the family of 13-year-old Jahi McMath of California. Deborah Flora, actress, producer, radio talk show host and second runner-up to Miss America, will preside as emcee at the gala. An exhibit of artwork created by Terri during her high school and college years will be on display, and prints will be available for purchase to benefit the organization.

As part of Terri’s Day 2014, an “International Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Terri Schindler Schiavo, and All of Our Vulnerable Brothers and Sisters,” Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will celebrate a national memorial mass on Monday, March 31st beginning at 5pm at the Chapel of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. All are invited and encouraged to attend.

Terri’s Day was established by Terri Schiavo’s family to remember her and foster education, prayer and activism regarding discrimination against the cognitively disabled and medically vulnerable, and advocacy for people in situations similar to what Terri and her family faced.

“Terri’s life and legacy serve as a cautionary reminder of the immediate threat placed upon hundreds of thousands of persons with cognitive disabilities,” says Bobby Schindler, Terri’s brother and Executive Director of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network. “We encourage all people to reflect on the ethical considerations of caring for those unable to do so for themselves, and believe that families, not hospital boards or politics, should dictate outcomes. We have seen a rise in the need for our advocacy efforts, especially in light of the health care crisis in our country. When families such as Jahi’s reach out to us, we support them, at no cost, by connecting them with family services and a network of professional resources.”

For more information, to purchase tickets for the gala and dinner with Glenn Beck, or to become a sponsor, visit Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network’s website at

About the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network

Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network was established by the surviving family members of Terri Schiavo to protect the medically vulnerable. It has communicated with and supported more than 1,500 families, and has been involved in hundreds of cases since Terri’s death. Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network has received dozens of national awards including the Gerard Health Foundation Life Prizes Award for its efforts in protecting the value and dignity of the profoundly brain injured.


# # #

Editors Note: Photo and interviews available

Media Contact:
Ellen Langas, NouSoma Communications, Inc.
Office 610-658-5889; Cell 610-256-2946;


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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'”

Part I

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?


MAYOR — If she?

BARRISTER — Is morally, ethic’ly

FATHER NO. 1 — Spiritually, physically

FATHER NO. 2 — Positively, absolutely

ALL OF GROUP — Undeniably and reliably
Dead! …

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. [3]

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. [4]

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. [5]

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. [6]

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. [7]

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. [8]

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.” [9] 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). [10] 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. [11]

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. [12] 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.” [13] 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.” [14] 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. [15] 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.” [16]

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. [17] 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.” [18] 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.” [19] 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. [20]

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. [21] 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. [22] 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. [23] “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. [24] 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. [25] Similarly, Dr. Coimbra reports that money and a vast propaganda machine fuel the organ transplantation industry in Brazil. [26] “… 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).'” [27] 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.” [28]

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?” [29] 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” …. [30]

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.” [31]

[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.”


[1]  Finis Vitae — Is “Brain Death” True Death? is published by the Life Guardian Foundation. For ordering information go to
[3]  See Michael Fund interview with Dr. Paul Byrne, “The Myth of ‘Brain Death,'” at
[4]  According to Dr. David Evans, a contributor to Finis Vitae, The term “brain death” did not originate with the Harvard Committee (1968), but can be traced to common usage among Intensive Care Unit staff beginning in the mid-1950s as a verbal “shorthand” for coma patients who were incapable of breathing on their own, unresponsive to stimuli, and showed no signs of brain function. See p. 115.
[5]  Byrne essay, “Death: the absence of life,” Finis Vitae, p. 84.
[6]  See Charter for Heath Care Workers, Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance at
[7]  Robert Spaemann, “When Death Becomes Inhuman” at
[8]  Spaemann, “Is Brain Death the Death of the Human Being,” Finis Vitae, p. 260.
[9]  Ibid., p. 262.
[10]  Dr. Cicero Galli Coimbra, “Are ‘brain dead’ (or ‘brain-stem dead) patients neurologically recoverable?” Finis Vitae, p. 335. Please note that both of Coimbra’s essays were added to the final text of Finis Vitae.
[11]  Ibid., pp. 313-319, 355. See the tenderly-related story of Dr. Coimbra’s care for a young brain injured Brazilian girl who critical condition was compromised by the administration of two apnea tests of 10 and 12 minute duration , in order that she might declared “brain dead” and qualify as an organ donor.
[12]  Dr. Cicero Galli Coimbra, “The Apnea Test — A Bedside Lethal ‘Disaster’ to Avoid a Legal ‘Disaster’ in the Operating Room,” Finis Vitae, p. 135.
[13]  Ibid., 135.
[14]  Ibid., 136, 137.
[15]  Ibid., 137.
[16]  Ibid., 161.
[17]  Some organs and tissues like corneas, and to a lesser extent, kidneys can be obtained from truly dead persons. Other vital organs like the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, small bowel and so on must be obtained from a living patient/donor.
[18]  David J. Hill, “Brain death — A United Kingdom Anaesthetist’s View,” Finis Vitae, p. 163
[19]  Ibid., p. 166.
[20]  Ibid.
[21]  Coimbra confirms Hill’s statement in his essay on apnea testing, p. 149. He describes certain movements of the “brain dead” patient: “the arms flex quickly to the chest from the patient’s side, the shoulders adduct, and in some patients, the hands cross or oppose just below the chin. The limbs then return to the patient’s side, sometimes asymmetrically.
[22]  Ibid., p. 171.
[23]  Ibid., 172.
[24]  Dr. Yoshio Watanabe, “Controversies on Brain Death in Japan and Our Seven-Year Experience After the Enforcement of the Organ Transplantation Law,” Finis Vitae, p. 284.
[25]  Ibid.
[26]  Coimbra, “The Apnea Test …,” p. 159.
[27]  Ibid., p. 159.
[28]  Ibid.
[29]  Walt Franklin Weaver, “Unpaired Vital Organ Transplantation Secular Altruism? Has killing become a virtue?” Finis Vitae, p. 11.
[30]  Ibid.
[31]  Ibid.

© 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. [2] 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. [3]

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. [4]

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. [5]
  • 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.” [6]
  • The brain has a large multiplicity of different functions that are characteristic of its different parts, each of which can function without the others. [7]
  • None of these parts is in complete control of the others. [8]
  • 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. [9]
  • 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. [10]

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. [11]

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.'” [12] 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. [13]

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.” [14]

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. [15]

“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. [16] 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.” [17]

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. [18] 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.” [19]

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. [20]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. [21]

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.” [22] 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.”[23]

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). [24]

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. [25] 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.[26]

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. [27]

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.” [28] 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.” [29] 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.” [30]

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.” [31]

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. … [32]

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.” [33]

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. [34]

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. [35] 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. [36]

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.” [37]

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. [38] 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. [39]

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.”[40]
  • 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). [41]
  • “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.” [42]

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. [43] 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.'”

The End


[1]  Finis Vitae — Is “Brain Death” True Death? is published by the Life Guardian Foundation. For ordering information go to
[2]  John Andrew Armour, “The Heart of the Matter,” Finis Vitae, p. 40. The termmilieu intereur refers to the bodily fluids regarded as an internal environment in which the cells of the body are nourished and maintained in a state of equilibrium.
[3]  Ibid., p.40.
[4]  My thanks to Dr. Paul Byrne for this simple reminder. See also Michael Potts, “The Beginning and the End of Life-Toward Philosophical Consistency,” Finis Vitae, p. 196.
[5]  Dr. Paul A. Byrne, “Introduction,” Finis Vitae, p. xxi.
[6]  Ibid.
[7]  Ibid., p. xxii.
[8]  Ibid.,
[9]  Ibid., p. xxiii.
[10]  Ibid., p. xxiv
[11]  Ibid., p. xxv.
[12]  Rainer Beckmann, “Determining Death: Is Brain Death Reliable,” Finis Vitae, p. 61.
[13]  Ibid., p. 61.
[14]  Ibid., 63.
[15]  Roberto de Mattei, “Genuine Science or False Philosophy?” Finis Vitae, p. 101
[16]  Ibid., p.103.
[17]  Ibid., p.105.
[18]  Ibid., p. 106.
[19]  Ibid.
[20]  Ibid., p. 113.
[21]  Ibid.
[22]  Potts, p. 177.
[23]  Dr. Josef Seifert, “On ‘Brain Death’ in Brief: Philosophical Arguments Against Equating It With Actual Death, and Responses to ‘Arguments’ in Favor of Such an Equation,” Finis Vitae, p. 212.
[24]  Ibid., p. 213.
[25]  Ibid., p. 223
[26]  Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz, “A Brief Summary of Catholic Doctrine Regarding Human Life,” Finis Vitae, pp. 78-80.
[27]  Ibid., p. 71.
[28]  This statement is a paraphrasing of a claim made by Robert M. Veatch, Ph.D., a Harvard graduate and the former Director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University in 2004, and subsequently quoted by Finis Vitae contributor David W. Evans in his essay “What is ‘Brain Death’? A British Physician’s View.” The pro- “brain death” Veatch acknowledges that the members of the 1968 Ad Hoc Harvard Committee were well aware of what they were doing when they proposed “an entirely new definition of death , one that assigned the label ‘death’ for social and policy purposes to people who no longer are seen as having the full moral standing assigned to other humans.” See p. 119 and fn. 8. Evans concludes that, “In the present state of knowledge, there is no sound scientific or philosophical basis for the diagnosis of human death on the so-called ‘brain death’ or ‘brain stem death’ clinical criteria in current use worldwide.”
[29]  R.D. Truog, “Is it Time to Abandon Brain death,?” Hastings Center Report, 1997, pp. 29-37. as quoted in Wolfgang Waldstein, “A Law of Life-Legality vs. Morality,” Finis Vitae, p. 281.
[30]  Weaver, p. 22.
[31]  Ibid., p. 1.
[32]  Ibid., p. 3.
[33]  Ibid., p.12.
[34]  Joseph C. Evers, “Personal Testimony on the Understanding of Brain Death,” Finis Vitae, p. 123.
[35]  Ibid., p. 124.
[36]  Ibid.
[37]  Ibid., p. 126.
[38]  D. Alan Shewmon, “Brain-Body Disconnection: Implications for the Theoretical Basis of Brain Death,” Finis Vitae, p. 230.
[39]  Ibid., p. 245.
[40]  Ibid., p.228.
[41]  Ibid., o, 231.
[42]  Ibid., p. 251.
[43]  Medical cards with “opt-out” directions are available online at and by mail from the U.S. Coalition for Life, Box 315, Export, PA 15632. Suggested donation is $2.00 per card.

© Randy Engel

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 Faceless Hospital Board Relents:

Jahi McMath Can Continue Her Fight for Life

Ominous case is only the latest example of government and hospital boards taking private medical decisions away from families

Contact: Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, 484-278-4287

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 6, 2014 / – The parents of Jahi McMath won a key victory in the right to care for their daughter, Jahi McMath. Jahi entered Children’s Hospital in Oakland in early December to have her tonsils removed, and after complications from that surgery, was quickly declared “brain dead” by the hospital only a short time later, despite what her family was reporting as signs of responsiveness. Since that time, Jahi’s parents have waged a protracted legal fight with the hospital to force them to provide even the most basic care for their daughter.

Over the weekend, the hospital finally released Jahi to her parents, who have transferred her to a facility while they wait and watch for signs of improvement in her condition.

“This is a temporary victory in the ongoing fight to protect the right of parents and families to make private medical decisions for their loved ones,” said Bobby Schindler, Executive Director of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, and brother of the late Terri Schiavo.

“Sadly, these cases are becoming more common in our current medical environment, where government bureaucrats and faceless hospital boards, in the form of ethics committees, strip away the rights of parents and families to make their own decisions regarding medical treatment.”

Once Jahi arrives safely at her new destination, her condition will be assessed in greater detail, and medical specialists will begin taking steps to hopefully improve her condition.

“Jahi’s fight has only just begun,” said Schindler. “And there are many other families across the country who face similar battles. That’s why it’s so important that people fight back when an ethics committee tries to take away their medical rights. Given our current medical environment, with more and more emphasis on government, we all have reason to worry.”

The Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network is a 501(c)(3) non-profit group dedicated to helping the medically vulnerable who are facing life-threatening situations. For more information, visit:



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