More Catholic insanity: organ donation = euthanasia

Reader Pliny the in Between sent me a link to this article, which I thought worth mentioning because of its unusual stance—a stance that, I realized, comes directly from Catholic Church’s uniform opposition to assisted dying. The upshot of the article, which comes from the “Pro-Life Healthcare Alliance“, is that we should not donate organs after we are declared brain-dead.

As you can see from the list of committee members at the bottom (and from my further investigations), the members are largely, if not wholly, Catholic.  This makes me fairly certain that the “no organ donation” slant comes from the religious view that such donations, which of course cause the “death” of the rest of the body when the brain is already dead, are a prohibited form of euthanasia.  Reader Pliny added this note with the link:

In your copious spare time, this article is worth skimming as an example of lying for Jesus.  The author’s horror stories reveal a deep lack of knowledge regarding the legal definitions of brain death.  None of the pseudo-patients she describes would have satisfied brain death criteria.  I’m thinking about writing something up about this topic.

I’ll have a say here as well. The article in question is called “Organ donation refusal, Q&A” by Julie Grimstad, the Executive Director of “Life Is Worth Living, Inc.”, a Catholic pro-life organization which opposes not only abortion, but assisted dying, which they call “euthanasia.” Her piece makes the following four points. I emphasize, though, that I am not a doctor, and though I’ve done my best to educate myself and pass that along, I may have made some errors. Readers are invited to correct any that they find.

1. There are dangers in donating an organ, like a kidney, to help a relative or a stranger.  Here’s how they scare you out of that:

Single kidney donation is the most frequent “living donor” procedure. Other organs that may be taken are one of the two lobes of the liver, a lung or part of a lung, part of the pancreas, or part of the intestines. The donor faces the risk of an unnecessary major surgical procedure and recovery. Sometimes there are adverse psychological outcomes or other consequences such as reduced function, disability, or problems getting medical insurance coverage at the same level and rate as previously. A small percentage of “living donors” die as a result of donation. All of these risks must be weighed along with the benefit the donated organ may be (no guarantee here either) to the organ recipient.

Note that the altruistic aspect of this procedure is not mentioned at all—only the risks to the donor (which are usually minimal).

2. “Brain death,” the usual criterion for determining death, and how death is declared, doesn’t mean that the patient is really “dead.” This depends on redefining death as the cessation of all physiological functions, even if the patient stands no chance of recovering, much less regaining consciousness. Their take:

Are organ donors certainly dead before their organs are removed?

The simple answer is “no.” Before organ transplantation was possible, physicians cautiously determined death, based on irreversible cessation of both cardiac and respiratory functions, in order not to treat the living as dead. Today, “brain death” is declared while a patient still has a beating heart and is breathing (albeit with the aid of a ventilator) because removal of vital organs must be done before they begin to deteriorate due to loss of blood circulation. Vital organs are useless if physicians wait to remove them until they are certain the patient is dead.

Tissues (such as bone, skin, tendons, cartilage, connective tissue, corneas, and heart valves) do not require continuous circulation of blood to remain useful for purposes of transplantation. Therefore, tissues may be taken up to several hours after death is certain.

I discussed these issues with my own doctor, Alex Lickerman, who told me several things about brain death. What that means is death of the brainstem, usually caused by head trauma. When the brainstem is destroyed, the underlying process has also usually destroyed the brain tissue above it, usually due to massive head trauma or vascular occlusion.

A defunct brainstem destroys the nerves that keep the heart beating and the lungs breathing (there is occasionally some endogenous heart rhythm caused by the heart’s own pacemaker). In such cases, patients are kept alive with a ventilator. (The definition of brain death varies among U.S. states.)

Because of the near-impossibility of someone recovering whose brainstem is dead, but also the ability of doctors to keep circulation and respiration going with ventilators and other means, the organs can still remain viable, and so can be used for donation. Waiting until all the organs die, which could take weeks, will make them useless for donation. (Donated organs include corneas, hearts, livers, pancreases, kidneys, and lungs.) Donors are typically young people with healthy organs who have suffered brainstem death due to head trauma (motorcycle accidents are a typical cause).

Doctors have several ways to test for brainstem death. Here are some common ones. (For these and others, see the Massachusetts General Hospital Guide to declaring brainstem death, or the American Academy of Neurology’s (AAN) guidelines, both of which show how seriously doctors take this issue.)

a. Lack of oculocephalic reflex. With the patient’s eyes held open, the head is turned rapidly to the side. If the brainstem is functional, the eyes will not turn with the head, but remain looking forward. The failure to see this, so that the eyes turn with the head, is a good indication of brainstem death, and doesn’t depend on consciousness.  Also, pupils will not respond to a bright light shined in the eye if the brainstem is dead.

b. Touch a Q-tip to the cornea.  The patient will not blink if the brainstem is dead. This is a reflex, not a conscious act.

c. Apnea testing. Turn off the ventilator. If the patient stops breathing without mechanical aid, the brainstem is dead.

d. EEG shows no electrical activity in the brain as a whole. 

There are other criteria as well. Although there may be very rare cases of patients recovering if they fail these tests, Alex doesn’t know of any, and I deeply suspect the two cases cited in the article.

It is NOT the case, despite what the article implies, that doctors are eager to declare patients dead so their organs can be harvested. ER doctors have no incentive to rush the patient to transplant surgeons. Rather, their mission is to help the patient and to deal with the family and with the patient’s or medical guardian’s wishes—should those be recorded.

Notice that the article redefines “death” not as “brainstem death” but as “organ death.” This means, of course, that no organs can be harvested under this definition:

The vast majority of organs for transplant are taken from patients who have been declared dead. A declaration of death does not always mean that the patient is certainly dead. Morally, organs and tissues may be taken from Patient A only after death is certain. (This “dead donor rule” is one of the basic ethical principles guiding organ donation.)

The article also misleadingly cites a report from a Committee at Harvard Medical School:

The insurmountable moral and legal problem is that stripping living patients of their organs is murder.

Yes, and doctors agree with that in general, but with the caveat that “living patients” are those with living brainstems. One exception is the existence of “persistent vegetative states,” in which there are signs of “arousal,” like the eyes being open but no sign of consciousness. Doctors can remove organs in such a state, but ONLY if the patient or the patient’s medical guardian has declared in advance that the patient does not want to be kept alive in such a condition.

4. Finally, the article claims that some patients declared dead have apparently recovered. Two cases are cited.

The first is that of Zack Dunlap, a 21 year old man who suffered brain trauma when his off-road bike rolled over. In this case, the patient was declared dead not using the criteria above, but via a PET scan, which measures metabolic activity in the brain via glucose uptake. As Steve Novella wrote on the Neurologica Blog, this is not a normal nor accurately calibrated way of determining brainstem death, and there is no case in which a PET scan has been independently tested to show that its results correlate highly with brainstem death. Novella argues that the declaration of brain death here could have also been subject to errors:

To summarize – in this case the clinical determination of brain death was made too early to be definitive. The only confirmatory test that was mentioned, the PET scan, is subject to technical errors that could have erroneously resulted in the absence of any signal. In this type of case (especially considering the age of the person) my personal recommendation would have been to either wait a couple of days after the edema mostly resolved, or to do more definitive confirmatory tests, like an angiogram for cerebral blood flow. I suspect that the patient was not thoroughly examined because the doctors were relying upon the PET scan, which was very likely in error. (Relying upon a false test always causes problems.)

The second case was that of 17-year-old Steven Thorpe, a British boy who suffered head injuries in a car accident. He was declared brain dead by four doctors, but another detected faint brain activity, and he eventually recovered. I can’t find much information about how brain death was determined, except that the doctors relied on CT scans, which aren’t designated by either the Massachusetts General or AAN’s guidelines as ways to determine brain death. We must remember, however, that those checklists may not be 100% infallible, though Alex Lickerman was unaware of anyone declared brain dead by conventional procedures having recovered. Very rare exceptions might occur.

The upshot of the article is given at its end:

Should I refuse to be an organ donor?

Yes, for the reasons stated above and because the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA), as revised in 2006 and since adopted by most states, allows for patients who have never consented to be organ donors to be considered “prospective” donors unless they explicitly refuse. This means, if you have not explicitly refused to be an organ donor, you may be subjected to potentially harmful measures done solely to preserve your organs for transplant or to determine if you are “brain dead.” These things can be done without your family’s knowledge or permission. Your family may be left “in the dark” until asked for your organs.

The PHA suggests you carry an Organ Donor Refusal card at all times.

This, however, misrepresents the UAGA, at least if Wikipedia is correct, which describes who must make the decision to donate a patient’s organs:

UAGA governs organ donations for the purpose of transplantation, and it also governs the making of anatomical gifts of one’s cadaver to be dissected in the study of medicine. The law prescribes the forms by which such gifts can be made. It also provides that in the absence of such a document, a surviving spouse, or if there is no spouse, a list of specific relatives in order of preference, can make the gift. It also seeks to limit the liability of health care providers who act on good faith representations that a deceased patient meant to make an anatomical gift. The act also prohibits trafficking and trafficking in human organs for profit from donations for transplant or therapy.

In other words, the patient’s wishes (in a living will or on a driver’s license), or the expression of a medical guardian who has discussed the patient’s wishes (and those wishes are met in a given case), can lead to organ donation.

What should you do?

The article by Julie Grimstad is a pastiche of misrepresentations, all motivated by the religious notion that donating organs is a form of assisted suicide.  It neglects the fact that living donors save lives, often with minimal risk to themselves, and especially that families may feel that a patient who cannot recover can help save other people’s lives by donating organs—something that has been very comforting to many families.

If you wish to participate in organ donation, it’s important to have a “living will” that specifies what measures should be taken to preserve your life if you’re brainstem dead or in a persistent vegetative state, and to specify in both that document and on your driver’s license that you want to donate organs in such a condition. You should also have discussed your wishes with a medical guardian (you can specify this in your will), who can act on your behalf when you no longer can. I have done all this, and would be happy to donate my organs to save other people’s lives.

The only people who don’t are those religionists who see organ donation as a form of murder, which is unconscionable given the numerous safeguards used by doctors to determine who can be a donor. And, of course, there are those who think that if you donate organs, you’ll show up in Heaven minus a kidney or lungs.

*******

To finish, here’s the “about” statement of the Pro-Life Healthcare Alliance and and list of their committee members. Pro-Life Healthcare alliance:

The Pro-life Healthcare Alliance was formed in the summer of 2012 as a non-denominational, faith-based program of Human Life Alliance.

All of our efforts are directed toward renewing reverence for life within healthcare.

The Pro-life Healthcare Alliance (PHA) actively shares faith-inspired principles that guide the care, support, and protection of the life and dignity of all human beings, including those who are preborn. The PHA provides reliable pro-life information about medical decision making and the challenges facing pro-life healthcare providers and patients. Our speakers are willing to go anywhere they are invited.

We are in the process of establishing a support network of healthcare providers and organizations who subscribe to the pro-life healthcare philosophy. We seek to work together to pool our resources and courageously oppose imposed death, help vulnerable patients and their families, and renew reverence for life within healthcare and society.

PHA is led by a committee of pro-life leaders from all spheres of the pro-life movement. We invite you to join us in a mutually-supportive mission that honors the Creator of all life and renews the culture of life in healthcare.

Working Committee Members

Ralph Capone, MD, Internist, Hospice Medical Director, palliative care consultant and co-founder of the Saint Gianna Sodality for the Sanctity of Human Life, Our Lady of Grace Parish, Greensburg, PA, USA

Rey Flores, Director of Outreach, American Life League

Julie Grimstad, Exec. Dir., Life is Worth Living, Inc.

Mary Kellett, Exec. Dir., Prenatal Partners for Life

Brian J. Kopp, DPM, Podiatrist in Johnstown PA, and Faith Community Laison for Catholic Hospice of Greensburg, PA

Cristen Krebs, DNP, Dir., Catholic Hospice of Pittsburgh

Ann Olson, Education Dir., Human Life Alliance

Alex Schadenberg, Exec. Dir., Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Jo Tolck, Exec. Dir., Human Life Alliance

63 Comments

  1. Cindy
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    How cute.

    They worry about the small risk of death from a living kidney donation, yet they have no qualms about letting a woman die from an ectopic pregnancy. In fact, they argue that the 24/100,000 death rate from pregnancy in the USA is a negligible risk. Heck, they don’t even care if women die in Africa, where there risks are MUCH higher.

    And thanks for this article PCC. I often find myself debating Catholic pro-lifers as to what exactly constitutes proper brain death. The information is helpful!

    FYI, the 16yo girl who was stabbed at the Gay Pride Parade in Israel died from her wounds.

  2. BobTerrace
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Pliny the in Between’s summary is perfect: lying for Jesus.

    As usual, those that claim moral stances are the most immoral.

  3. Randy Schenck
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Always amazing how much concern these folks have before you get here and after you have left. Do your own living will and keep them out of your business.

  4. Posted August 3, 2015 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    These are people who lied to Africans to stop them using condoms to prevent HIV infection. What they really can’t stand is science doing a better job than their imaginary friend.

  5. Pablo
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Who wants to bet that the people behind this organization would feel entitled to an organ transplant if they or a loved one needed it.

    • Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

      Without doubt.

    • Posted August 4, 2015 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Yes Pablo, a very astute observation.
      Long ago, when I carried out TOP’s (termination of pregnancy) I was always struck by the ‘Abortion is Murder’ proponents* being agressively first in line -and counting on medical secret- to demand an abortion if they themselves fell pregnant or, rather more regularly, had impregnated their (often under-age) maid.

      *Note, in South Africa the majority of them are of protestant denomination, not catholic.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 5, 2015 at 3:33 am | Permalink

        About four decades ago when NZ had a bill in parliament about contraceptive advice etc, I was out helping survey a bit of back-country road and staying in the local pub. And one evening over drinks we swapped stories with a travelling salesman who had apparently enjoyed an intimate relationship with every barmaid in Northland. That was okay by me (consenting adults and all that).

        Next day on the road he came past and stopped for a chat and conversation turned to the Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion bill to which, it turned out, this creep (presumed Catholic) was vehemently opposed as abortion was “letting women escape their responsibilities”. I had to walk away as I didn’t trust myself to say anything printable.

        cr

        • rickflick
          Posted August 5, 2015 at 5:44 am | Permalink

          I would not have condemned you too strongly if you had let him have it with a crisp hook to the jaw. But that’s just me.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted August 5, 2015 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

            I would have thought a swift kick in the joy department would’ve been more to the point. But when working (and by implication representing your company) that sort of thing is not advisable.

            cr

            • rickflick
              Posted August 6, 2015 at 5:52 am | Permalink

              I commend your restraint.

  6. Diane G.
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    “…carry an Organ Donor Refusal card at all times.”

    Just when you think religion can’t possibly get any more harmful…

    • Stonyground
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      That was my thought, Catholics seem to delight in constantly making the world a worse place than it otherwise would be. Still, if I wasn’t a registered organ donor already, Catholics being against organ donation would make me want to sign up, after all, they tend to be wrong about pretty much everything.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 4, 2015 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      It is so damn selfish. That’s the thing that stands out to me. It seems to me to be exactly the same attitude as those that cry socialism(!) or welfare state(!) at any suggestion that government should be used to provide aid to members of society that need it. God forbid that some freeloader somewhere should get something that should have been mine, mine, mine.

      And we all live off the largesse of everyone else. Even Bill Gates. But organizations like this, The Pro-life Healthcare Alliance? They are obligate parasites.

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 5, 2015 at 12:59 am | Permalink

        I couldn’t agree more!

  7. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    It’s not the standard Catholic view (not that that carries a lot of weight with me or other readers here), though it remains a matter of controversy.

    In 1958 Pope Pius XII (not someone I hugely admire) said death is determined by medical experts and “does not fall within the competence of the Church” and most Catholic ethicists go for brain death criteria.
    IN the 1980s Pope John Paul II called organ donation “an act of charity and love”.

    In 2005, opponents of brain death criteria were at a conference at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, arguing for the position described in this post, and had their papers published in an anthology.

    A 2008 editorial in the Vatican newspaper expressed the views of the folks mentioned here, but noted it was not the official view of the church. http://clericalwhispers.blogspot.com/2008/09/vatican-newspaper-says-new-questions.html

    Gory details about the standard Catholic view here.
    http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/the-morality-of-organ-transplants

    -=-=-
    Re “Life Is Worth Living, Inc.”

    “Life is Worth Living” is the name of a popular religious TV show from the early 1950s hosted by the very popular Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

    For reasons not wholly clear to me, Ayn Rand was a fan.

    So was actor Ramon Estevez who took the name Martin Sheen as a result. In the wake of Charlie Sheen, I suspect if there is any sort of afterlife, Fulton Sheen is rolling over in his grave.

    • BobTerrace
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Can anyone name anything that “falls within the competence of the Church” ?

      Dopey hats?
      Gowns for men?
      Unfashionable fashion?
      Pope mobile to keep the adoring masses from killing the pope?
      Wasting a couple of hours each Sundsy morning?

      • kieran
        Posted August 3, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        “Is there anything to be said for saying another mass?”

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 3, 2015 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        Lies, cover-ups, avarice, bigotry…

        • Posted August 3, 2015 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

          Buggery, tax evasion, child exploitation, and buggery.

          They like buggery.

          b&

          • Diane G.
            Posted August 3, 2015 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

            Ya gotta be competent at something.

            • Posted August 4, 2015 at 11:12 am | Permalink

              Oh, I’d say they’re more than merely competent at those things….

              b&

              • Diane G.
                Posted August 5, 2015 at 1:02 am | Permalink

                Well, true. They’d probably take the Olympic Gold Medal in buggery.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted August 3, 2015 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        I knew someone was going to post that!!

      • rickflick
        Posted August 3, 2015 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        I prefer “fails within the competence of the Church”.

        • JonLynnHarvey
          Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

          To be fair, the Christian Brothers do make pretty good sherry.

          • darrelle
            Posted August 4, 2015 at 10:30 am | Permalink

            Isn’t it Brandy?

  8. Posted August 3, 2015 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    So if the people who heed this article start carrying Organ Donor Refusal card, shouldn’t they also carry Organ Recipient Refusal card as well?

    • rickflick
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      Bingo! +1

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      Good call!

  9. ginger k
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Please use the term [sic] following the oxymoron “pro-life” since obviously these idiots are NOT supportive of human life.

  10. tubby
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    It’s nice how they make sure to make it seem like it’s unlikely the person receiving the donated organ would benefit from it.

  11. merilee
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    sub

  12. Posted August 3, 2015 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    If I read this right, we’d probably have no organs to donate at all? Besides connective tissue, corneas, and heart valves, nothing at all. I’m almost speechless. What speech I have is not suitable for a family publication.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      Go ahead, let it out. I’m covering my eyes.

  13. Heather Hastie
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    As usual, the Catholic Church fails miserably in their attempt to take the moral high ground. After centuries of such failures you’d think they would’ve learned something, but no.

    Their ability to reason clearly is damaged by religion, which is the lesson people in general need to recognize.

  14. ptheinb
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    Great piece. Couple of additions based on clinical experience.

    The most confusing thing a healthcare worker can say to the family of a brain dead patient is, “we are keeping them alive with…(technology). Families can be confused with the seeming conflict of brain death but alive on machines.

    We were always careful to be clear that the individual was truly dead (all that they were) but that technology can keep hearts and kidneys functioning for some time after death.

    The determination of brain death is not a particularly complicated clinical process and if proper procedures are conducted (one of the reasons that national organ procurement organizations OPOs are involved in every case) it is absolute. Great care is taken to check off any confounding situations that can sometimes mimic brain death such as certain medications, severe hypothermia, high cord injury, etc.

    In recent years, an additional avenue for organ donation has been developed – DCD – Donation (after) Cardiac Death. This is a rarer form of organ procurement that is restricted to certain solid organs (kidneys are the most likely) that can tolerate a brief period of warm ischemia in a terminal patient post extubation providing that there cardiac death is less than one hour after ventilation is terminated.

    Finally, those who would discourage donation may well be robbing families of an important aspect of recovery. For many families, the knowledge that their loved one’s gift may have saved the lives of several others is a great comfort.

  15. Posted August 3, 2015 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Families and doctors, apparently, don’t have sense enough to determine death based on the laws of the state. They are ghouls, eager to glean body parts ASAP. According to elements of the catholic church, they must not remove no-longer used body parts from a dead person to be used by someone still alive but,needing a transplant. This is insane and, as pointed out above, not the documented stance of the roman catholic church.

    My husband has a pacemaker. When his brain and body)dies, the pacemaker will continue to make his heart beat. Does that mean he’s alive in the view of these catholics?

  16. Posted August 3, 2015 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Of course. When it suits them, theists will recognize that certain states often associated with death, like having no pulse, not breathing, or brain death, are not definitive.

    But when claiming someone came back from the dead, just the fact that the person’s eyes were closed often suffices for being declared dead.

    • Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      (I shouldn’t have included “brain death” in that list, but the point stands. If they’re willing to see brain death as non-definitive, how much less definitive should they regard cardiac or respiratory arrest?)

  17. Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    I wonder what the motivation for adopting this view of organ donation is. Are they afraid god can’t re-supply any missing organs once you pass over? Well, I guess he’s not omnipotent.

    Stuff like this makes me think theists say to themselves: “ok, what would be the right and good thing to do here? I will do the opposite.”

    • eric
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

      That was my wonder too. Based on the last portion of the post it appears they think that taking organs from a brain dead person whose body can be kept artificially alive is not ‘treating that person with dignity.’ There also seems to be an undertone of worry that doctors might intentionally misdiagnose people just to harvest their organs.

      The whole thing is despicable. But I’ve never heard of this group and they aren’t official so I wonder if they’ll have any effect at all.

      Here’s hoping that Catholics seriously considering organ donation will talk to their families about the decision, rather than making their decision based on the PR announcements of some political action group.

      • Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

        I think there’s also an over-reaching disgust instinct at play. Same with the PP brouhaha. The simple fact that parts of bodies, especially innards, are involved means the whole enterprise must be off, somehow. Shady. Why would one want to think about “harvesting” organs, much less do it? Can’t be right.

      • Cindy
        Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

        Apparently dead women’s bodies are not off limits, cuz fetus:

        http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/29/health/texas-pregnant-brain-dead-woman/index.html

        I once had an agonizing chat with a pro-life Republican, who couldn’t quite understand what anencephaly was. I explained to him in great detail that using the organs of a brainless and thus permanently unconscious baby would *not* hurt it, since it never really lived. That brainless = empty bag of meat and bone.

        Well, this guy seemed to think that not having a brain didn’t mean anything, and that simply breathing = being able to experience life. And that therefore, prematurely killing a brainless infant was murder most foul and cruel. He lost his shit and wouldn’t stop accusing me of being a monster

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted August 4, 2015 at 5:44 am | Permalink

          If it is any consolation it was he that acted like a monster. If he elevates a lump of cells to personhood, and that lump is not a person (piece of dead or dying skin, fetus, anencephalic, …), he put his morals in the drain.

          [If anyone would take a note from the religious notebook, he – absent an agreeable moral basis – would be accused of being able to jump any which way.]

        • eric
          Posted August 4, 2015 at 7:44 am | Permalink

          I have no problem with the concept of treating living flesh (absent a brain or sentience) with respect and dignity. Consider the modern meat industry vs. the old trope of an indian saying a prayer over a dying deer he’s shot, thanking it for its body; its perfectly fine to say the latter is preferable to the former because its “more humane,” even if we’re not sure what we’re invoking by calling it humane. Cultivating empathy in us-as-hunters is a good thing. It is bad for humans to get inured to the misery or feelings of other creatures.

          The problem comes when one draws a moral equivalency between vastly different organisms or situations, and this problem is particularly exacerbated if the person’s argument for equivalency is nothing more than “they both have souls.” Even if I want sheep and deer treated humanely, I’m not going to give them the same legal rights as an adult human. Nor am I going to give a single-celled blastocyst the same rights, or a genetic human whose cranium is essentially empty of brain matter. Such things are deserving of thoughtful treatment, yes. Deserving of moral equivalency, no.

          • Diane G.
            Posted August 5, 2015 at 12:46 am | Permalink

            I don’t think you need worry about single-celled blastocysts…

    • Robert Bray
      Posted August 4, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Irony squared: the Catholic church allows cremation. I have sat through a funeral mass for a colleague in which the priest swung his censer back and forth over a little wooden box.

      All during the service I wondered where Catholic dogma would have parked the soul pending the full resurrection of the body from that quart or so of ashes that had been my teaching colleague.

  18. Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Ah, rejecting the good in search of the perfect. Of course the only thing claiming to have perfection on offer is, as usual, religion.

    Why do anything if there’s not absolute certainty? Organ donation has some small risks? Don’t do it. Tomorrow I’m going to stay home, not drive my car or take public transportation. I’ll avoid the shower as I don’t want to slip and fall and I certainly won’t take the stairs. I won’t cook food with my stove, for if there’s a gas leak, it may explode. Best I just sit still and have faith that God will see me through.

    • Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

      And sub.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      For food there’s always Godfather’s Pizza, but I have no suggestion on the shower.

  19. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    It might be worth gently noting to these horrible human beings that, balanced against the awfulness of vanishingly improbable medical errors is the fact that these organ donations actually save thousands of living breathing people’s lives and repair tens of thousands of actual people’s blindness.

    Jeebus wept (or woulda if he wasn’t just a feeble imaginary self-justifying excuse for their own horridness.)

  20. Mudskipper
    Posted August 4, 2015 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    So they discourage living organ donation because of the risk to the donor, regardless of whether it might save another’s life. Yet at the same time, they want to force a woman to donate the use of her organs to save fetus’s life, regardless of the risk to woman. Gotcha. Totally morally consistent.

  21. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 4, 2015 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    “pro-life” = bullshit.

    Invariably.

    (And they’ve come up with a new one – ‘pre-born humans’. I suppose when I, errm, take matters in hand I’m condemning millions of pre-conceived humans to non-existence…)

    cr

  22. Tom
    Posted August 4, 2015 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    I think that part of this anti-donation stance is the old christian superstition that a persons whole body would be resurrected from the grave(catacomb)warts and all as told in John’s story of Lazarus. This was a belief contrary to the Pauline idea of resurrection in a new perfect body.
    Removing body bits would obviously put the ex-corpse at a disadvantage in the struggle for survival in the life to come.

  23. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 4, 2015 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    As with abortion, I don’t think ‘pro’ life is an apt name. In both cases these organizations add unnecessary misery to life.

    If it isn’t evidence based medicine, it isn’t medicine.

    On a more positive note I don’t think these nuts can get any traction in Scandinavia. Brain death, not cell death, is legally synonymous with mammal death. (And I recently read that fish cultivation in Norway is testing instant mushing of fish brains as ethical kill method, making it on par with other meat production.)

    the altruistic aspect of this procedure is not mentioned

    has been very comforting to many families

    The sanctimony is strong in that one sect.

  24. HaggisForBrains
    Posted August 4, 2015 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Some notes on living kidney donation:

    1. In the UK, there is an extensive medical and psychological screening programme for anyone who volunteers to donate. Only the fittest are allowed to proceed. This process takes about six months.

    2. As a result, the chances of the donor dying during or soon after the procedure are about 1 in 3000, historically.

    3. Most procedures (over 90%) now are done laparoscopically (keyhole surgery), further reducing the risks and the recovery time.

    4. Trust me, it’s easy. I slept through the whole thing 😉 and was able to walk a couple of miles within a week of being discharged. I was in hospital six days, which is two days longer than usual due to a minor infection of the uvula, caused by intubation. It has not made the slightest difference to my life.

    5. Anyone of any age can do it (I was 67), and you can save someone’s life. How many of us get the chance to save a life? People are dying, waiting for a kidney transplant. More information is available here..

    Anyone seriously interested and wanting to discuss this with me is welcome to get in touch. Jerry has my email address, and I authorise him to pass it on, or forward serious email to me.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 4, 2015 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      Congratulations for volunteering this way. It takes a lot of heart to give a kidney (if I may joke about it).
      I am puzzled, though, about the “keyhole” surgery. The opening must be at least be large enough to remove the organ, right? Can you give some idea of the size? How many stitches to close?

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted August 5, 2015 at 2:58 am | Permalink

        The scar is about three inches long, plus there are two little spots above where the tools went in. I reckon the scar is just exactly the size of the kidney. I have this vision of them trying to squeeze it out through the small hole, and it suddenly squirting across the theatre. The scar is quite subtle, and there were no stitches – they must have used superglue. All very neat, and just below my bikini line too 😉

        I understand that if the operation is done in the traditional way the scar is significantly larger, and the stay in hospital several days longer. Surgeons nowadays generally set out to do the operation laparoscopically, but won’t guarantee that in advance, in case they have to revert to traditional techniques during the op.

        • rickflick
          Posted August 5, 2015 at 5:40 am | Permalink

          Sounds great. A real encouragement to those who would consider undergoing the procedure.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 5, 2015 at 12:12 am | Permalink

      Haggis, thank you for all the info, and thank you for the act!

  25. DTaylor
    Posted August 4, 2015 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Re: Claim 1: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” KJV John 15:13 One can choose to lay down one’s life, but not donate a kidney?

    Re: Claim 4 “Some patients declared dead have apparently recovered.” Yes. That is quite possibly what happened to Jesus. It was even more difficult over two thousand years ago to determine when someone was really dead. Every now and then, even today, someone lands in the morgue by mistake. And it was not unusual, in earlier times, to attach a bell to the hand of someone in a coffin so that they could ring it and notify those above ground that a burial had occured by mistake. Fortunately, with the help of modern science, we can avoid these errors.

  26. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted August 7, 2015 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    1. There are dangers in donating an organ, like a kidney, to help a relative or a stranger.

    One of my friends (of goat mask and posing pouch fame, for greeting the Mormons at the door) donated a kidney to his brother. That was about 8 years ago, and neither of them is dead yet, which would not have been the outcome if there hadn’t been the transplant.
    Typical murderous religious horseshit.


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] Today’s read: It’s about organ donation. Evidently certain religious sects are telling their parishioners and anyone else who will listen to not be a donor. They seem to believe that death is being hastened in some cases by doctors who want parts. They also say that brain death is reversible and should not be considered a signal that the rest of the person is dead. Jerry Coyne explains that they are nuts. […]

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