Save The "Brain Dead" Victims

Mercedes Arzu Wilson
Reproduced with Permission

Part 1

Is the Roman Catholic Church in imminent danger of becoming an accomplice in the sacrificing of "brain dead" donors before their natural end? Many Catholic scientists, physicians, philosophers, and theologians are in deep anguish at having to plead with the Church's leadership to stop high-ranking Vatican officials from openly supporting the theory that "brain death" constitutes a person's natural end. Such support would sanction the removal of organs from patients who are still alive.

When is a human being actually dead?

How do medical professionals know if a human being is dead? In his article "'The Least of These': A Christian Moral Appraisal Of Vital Organ Procurement From 'Brain-Dead' Patients," which was published in the spring 2004 issue of Ethics & Medicine, Stephen N. Nelson wrote, "The ability to distinguish living human beings from dead human beings has important medical, legal, social, religious, metaphysical, and metaphorical implications."

More important, what standard do they use to make such a final determination? And more important still, how does the law define "death"? After all, virtually everyone has heard about people who were wheeled into the morgue, only to sit up and ask for something to drink. This is a rare occurrence to be sure, but it does happen from time to time.

The standard used to determine "death" has changed quite significantly over the years. As our knowledge of human anatomy grows and technology allowing us to look inside the body expands, both the legal and medical professions have had to adapt. We used to declare a person dead upon the cessation of his vital bodily functions, primarily breathing and heartbeat. But once we began to "bring back to life" those people who had stopped breathing and whose hearts had stopped beating, it was clear we could no longer rely on such an "antiquated," but commonsense standard.

Origin Of The "Brain Death" Theory

"Brain death" did not originate or develop by way of application of the scientific method. A heart transplant took place in South Africa in 1967. Three days later, after the transplant, a beating heart was cut out of a newborn baby in Brooklyn, N.Y. There were 150 hearts transplanted between 1967 and 1968. It was a desire to make heart transplantation "morally" acceptable and legal that led to the invention of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School to Examine the Definition of Brain Death.

The primary purpose of the Harvard Committee was not to determine if irreversible coma was an appropriate criterion for death but to see to it that it was established as a new criterion for death. The purpose was to make it medically and legally acceptable to get beating hearts for transplantation. The committee report, entitled, "A Definition of Irreversible Coma," was published in 1968 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Missing from the Harvard Committee's report were the most basic scientific studies, patient data, and references, as well as the numerous objections from honest, conscientious physicians who participated in the committee and strongly objected to the definition of "brain death" as true death. In other words, there was serious lack of scientific method in the origination and later development of the brain-related criteria.

The translation of "comatose" into "dead" was first accomplished with the publication of the Harvard Criteria. The change in definitions was based on a lie. It is important to keep in mind that only someone alive can be in a coma, even when the condition is said to be "irreversible." Neither the term "coma" nor the phrase "comatose state" can be applied to someone who is actually dead. (1)

Vital Organ Excision For Transplantation

Excision of the heart or liver from a living human being causes death. Therefore, it is immoral to remove an unpaired vital organ before death. Moreover, it is not possible to successfully transplant an unpaired vital organ after death. To satisfy a desire for transplantable organs, an ingenious method was devised to get around these realities. Some living, but comatose patients were simply determined to be "brain dead."

Ethically, may one excise a beating heart from a person who has vital signs -- someone who is warm, has normal blood pressure and circulation, and has many other intact, functioning organs and systems maintaining the unity (oneness) of the organism as a whole? At the very least, if there is doubt that death has occurred, may one excise a vital organ? The answer to both questions is "no." Yet, in using brain-related criteria for death, every heart transplant surgeon removes a beating heart or stops the beating heart just before lifting it out of the donor's chest. Such organ excision has become commonplace.

The reason behind why fewer and fewer persons question the morality of such action is the powerful lobbying and deceitful marketing techniques being used to encourage donation of human organs. This has turned it into a billion- dollar industry. Shockingly, most physicians are unfamiliar with the brutality of this medical practice; they assumed that what seems questionable must be all right if the "experts" are doing it, instead of remembering that what is wrong is always wrong, even if the "experts" are doing it.

Few physicians have been able to get their voices heard in medical publications. (2) The main ones are controlled by those who have been supporting abortions for years, and "brain death" as true death.

"Brain Death" And The Vatican

In 1985 and 1989, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences organized meetings to discuss the issue of "brain death" criteria and vital organ transplantation. Surprisingly, most participants supported the criteria set forth by the Harvard Committee. How can this be? Why would Catholics ever support criteria that are based on lies? I was amazed to learn that members of the Pontifical Academy of Science do not need to be Catholic, nor accept the teachings of the Magisterium. The majority of the participants were pro "brain death," or had special interests in the Church's support of this false criteria.

"The killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act" (Evangelium Vitae: 63.2, 1995).

On August 29, 2000, His Holiness Pope John Paul II addressed the 18th International Congress of the Transplantation Society:

"Vital organs which occur singly in the body can be removed only after death," he said, "that is from the body of someone who is certainly dead." The Pope continued:

"With regard to the parameters used today for ascertaining death -- whether the 'encephalic' signs or the most traditional cardio-respiratory signs -- the Church does not make technical decisions. She limits herself to the Gospel duty of comparing the data offered by medical science with the Christian understanding of the unity of the person, bringing out the similarities and the possible conflicts capable of endangering respect for human dignity.

"Here it can be said that the criterion adopted in more recent times for ascertaining the fact of death, namely the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain activity, if rigorously applied, does not seem to conflict with the essential elements of a sound anthropology."

Some members of the medical profession heralded Pope John Paul II's statement as affirmation of their existing "brain death" criteria for transplant procedures. In truth, His Holiness set forth stricter guidelines than did the Harvard Committee. These stricter guidelines are currently being violated, misinterpreted, and ignored. "If" and "rigorously applied" were vitally important words of the Pope. "Rigorously applied" implies that such criteria exist. None of the current brain-related criteria fulfill this prerequisite for death.

It is apparent that Pope John Paul II was concerned on the misinterpretation of his August 2000 address and wanted the assistance of experts with impeccable credentials to revisit the problem of ascertaining a person's natural end. In 2004, the Holy Father deemed it necessary to revisit the issue to ascertain the end of life, in particular with regard to vital organ transplantation.

I was asked to collaborate with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to organize the conference. I submitted to the Academy a list of potential presenters that included scientists, physicians, philosophers, and theologians, all of whom are in agreement with the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

The Academy submitted its list, the makeup of which was quite alarming. Some of them had been notorious opponents of the teachings of the Catholic Church. In fact, one of the presenters admitted to me moments before the conference began that "brain dead" donors are alive, but since their quality of life is so poor, it was better for their organs to be used to save someone's life. I asked him, Do you believe in God? And he replied, No! What's more, some of the presenters at the conference were personally involved in the business of vital organ transplantation.

Some of the doctors who were to address conference participants were actively transplanting organs. The conflict of interest was as obvious as it was serious. I suggested that the presenters should have impeccable credentials in the field of science, philosophy, and theology and at the very least be supportive of the teachings of the Magisterium, which respects life from the moment of conception until its natural end.

My list of presenters awakened a contentious period of negotiations. I was flatly told that if I did not agree to accept an even number of presenters, the meeting would not take place. Wanting the conference to convene in the hope of getting the truth known, I reluctantly agreed to that condition. I was later told that I would be required to fund at least 70% of the cost of the conference. If I did not agree to do so, the important and potentially historic conference would not take place.

It was obvious that Academy officials and other high officials within the Vatican were looking for ways to discourage me from carrying out the wishes of the Holy Father. They believed that I would back down, as the cost involved in bringing speakers from different parts of the world would be enormous. But, because of my love and admiration for His Holiness John Paul II and my desire to defend the integrity and infallibility of the teachings of the Catholic Church, I felt compelled to accept the new condition.

I believed it was critically important that the conference take place and I hoped that the Pope would make the teachings of the Church on these important issues so clear that no one could misinterpret them. I had faith that somehow the funds to hold the conference could be raised. It was sad to discover how true the statement of Pope Paul VI was, "The smoke of Satan has penetrated the Church."

Body And Soul

During the conference, there were heated debates between the two forces. The primary objective of our scientists was to present irrevocable evidence that "brain death" does not constitute a person's natural end. We also presented the self-evident truth that life and death do not exist at the same time within the same person. A human person is either dead or alive. We revealed the similarity of protocols that are used for living patients about to undergo surgery and "brain dead" donors while they await extraction of their organs. If a person is truly dead, why would they need to follow a meticulous protocol?

Consider what the donor is given while he/she awaits extraction of his/her organs: intravenous fluids, intravenous feeding, blood transfusions, thyroid hormone, adrenal hormones. Transplant physicians use a paralyzing agent to stop the donor from moving during the extraction of organs. This is because anesthesiologists and nurses had become concerned when the supposed "cadaver," who is breathing with the assistance of a ventilator, would squirm and move as they cut into the chest and abdomen to extract his heart, liver, and/or pancreas.

The anesthetic also prevents the increase in heart rate and blood pressure. When the donor is paralyzed without anesthetic, the heart rate and blood pressure increase. The addition of anesthetic removes this response. Naturally, when the patient is truly dead, this change in heart rate and blood pressure does not occur. A healthy person's heart and the heart of a person about to be extracted, both beat at the same rate.

During the conference, important questions were posed to the pro "brain death" physicians who claimed that brain functions are nonexistent in a "brain dead" donor: How can an expectant mother who has been declared "brain dead" continue to give life to her infant within her womb for days and sometimes even months, and during this time she is being called a cadaver? Why is it that the mother's body does not decompose for days or even months if she is truly dead? How can a so-called brain dead mother deliver a live baby and produce breast milk when the transplant surgeons have been assuring family members that their loved one is dead?

None of the pro "brain death" physicians denied that the pregnant mother (who the transplant surgeons call a "cadaver"), who was declared "brain dead," could produce milk from the breasts. Such admission tumbled their assurance that the "brain dead" patient has no brain activity since the production of breast milk stems from the pituitary gland in the brain.

If in any of these examples there is activity of the brain, it is obvious that either existing technology is incapable of detecting hidden brain activity or when it is observed, some have chosen to consider such activity to be peripheral to the situation. Intricate functioning of the pituitary gland that is attached to the hypothalamus (a part of the brain) must be working very effectively in the so- called brain dead donors. The pituitary gland is responsible for producing important hormones including prolactin in order to stimulate breast milk production. The pituitary gland is called the "master gland" of the endocrine system, because it controls the functions of other endocrine glands. The pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, is no larger than a pea.

Our presenters emphasized that the leadership of the Catholic Church cannot support a declaration of true death unless there is no doubt that the soul has separated from the body. Pope John Paul II stated in his written remarks, February 3, 2005 (read in his absence due to illness), to the participants of this Pontifical Academy of Sciences conference entitled "The Signs of Death":

"Within the horizon of Christian anthropology, it is well known that the moment of death for each person consists in the definitive loss of the constitutive unity of body and spirit. Each human being, in fact, is alive precisely insofar as he or she is 'corpore et anima unus' (body and soul united) (Gaudium et Spes, n. 14), and he or she remains so for as long as the substantial unity-in-totality subsists."

At the end of the conference, a majority of the participants concluded that "brain death" is not true death. As long as the heart is beating, the donor is alive and his soul has not departed from the body. The chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences asked to review the papers of all the participants, as he intended to include their individual contributions during the discussions, in order to publish them as part of the proceedings.

Sadly, two months later, April 2, 2005 our dear Holy Father John Paul II died. The proceedings of the conference, however, were prepared by the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and were ready for publication in November 2005. Soon thereafter, much to our surprise, we were informed that the proceedings would not be published by order of "higher authorities" within the Vatican. Nevertheless, the presenters who concluded that "brain death" was not true death, agreed to publish the proceedings themselves with the assistance of the National Research Council of Italy. The title of the book is FINIS VITAE: Brain Death is NOT True Death.

Notorious Supporters

Surprisingly, on September 11, 2006, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences was asked by "higher authorities" to convene another conference with the same title ("The Signs of Death") and had the audacity to relegate the conference of February 3-4, 2005 requested by His Holiness John Paul II as a "pre- conference."

Only two of the participants who had opposed the "brain death" criteria of the 2005 conference were invited to participate at the new conference. The rest of the participants of the September 11, 2006 conference were notorious supporters of "brain death" criteria and some of them were involved in the marketing of human organs.

Curiously, the 2006 conference and proceedings were highly publicized and fully funded by the Vatican. The published proceedings of that conference recognized "brain death" as true death.

Imagine if the Vatican were to convene a conference on the question of whether abortion destroys human life and a majority of invited participants were involved in the abortion industry. Would the conference conclude that unborn babies are not human persons? Would the "higher authorities" of the Vatican agree to -- or even insist upon -- such a conclusion?

Endnotes (Part 1)

Part 2

In November 2008, an International Congress entitled "A Gift for Life" was organized by the Pontifical Academy for Life, in collaboration with the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and the Italian National Transplant Centre. The conference took place within Vatican's Auditorium della Conciliazione and was cosponsored by several entities that represented groups involved in the profitable international marketing of human organs, as well as embryonic stem-cell experimentation (such as Novartis), and artificial birth control and abortion worldwide (such as the World Health Organization).

Additionally, the Scientific Committee of the conference included individuals actively involved in the billion-dollar business of organ transplantation, such as presidents of European and Italian transplant societies. It also included Transplantation Societies of Europe and Canada, a "Catholic" bioethics center from the USA (not an official entity of the Catholic Church) that is aggressively in favor of "brain death" as true death, and others of similar special interests.

Novartis AG, a pharmaceutical corporation with $28 billion in annual sales, is heavily involved in the development of chemicals to prevent rejection of transplanted organs. On April 12, 2005, The Wall Street Journal reported that, as far back as 2001, Novartis began preparations to use stem cells from embryos at its Cambridge, Mass., experimentation institute. Novartis is one of the first major pharmaceutical companies to admit involvement in the embryonic stem-cell field.

The World Health Organization is known for its worldwide involvement in programs promoting the use of artificial birth control (most of which are abortifacients), sterilization, and abortion. Additionally, this organization has been actively involved since the 1970s in the development and testing of two different types of anti-fertility vaccines.

One is an anti-hCG vaccine. It acts against the natural effects of a substance called human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG. This is produced by the new human embryo, and helps new human life implant in the lining of the mother's womb. The vaccine "teaches" the mother's immune system that the newly conceived life is foreign and must be destroyed. The tiny human being will be aborted before it has the opportunity to implant in the mother's womb. The hCG is placed within the diphtheria/tetanus vaccines. These contaminated vaccines have been widely used in Third World countries for many years. The poor women who continue receiving them never realize that they are being vaccinated against their own pregnancy. American Life League, a national pro- life organization, released this report in October 2005.

Alarmed that the Holy Father is getting some seriously flawed advice, some members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, including myself and others who are scientists, physicians, and philosophers, wrote to the leadership of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. We respectfully pleaded with them to suspend the conference and refrain from exposing the scandal of collaborating and receiving funding from entities that are involved in destroying human life from conception to its natural end.

We pointed out the following reasons for suspending the conference:

1) The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly indicates in n. 2296 with regard to organ transplants that "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."

2) By sponsoring such a conference with senior authorities of the international transplant business, the Catholic Church runs the risk of being accused of terminating the life of a donor to extend the life of another.

3) Over the last two decades, even the international medical profession has been questioning the "brain dead" issue, particularly in lieu of recent cases where prospective donors have awakened minutes before their organs were to be extracted from their bodies. Hundreds of articles have been written that question the brain death standard, including "Developments in Brain Death: Challenges to the Standard Concept" (New Review of Bioethics), "Brain Death and Slippery Slopes" (The Journal of Clinical Ethics), "Owning Up to Our Agendas: On the Role and Limits of Science in Debates about Embryos and Brain Death" (The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics), and "Brain Death -- Still a Controversy" (The Pharos). And the articles keep coming.

4) As recently as June 12, 2008, Reuters reported the case of a 45-year- old man in France who was declared "brain dead" after a heart attack. According to a report by the Paris University hospital's ethics committee, doctors massaged the man's heart for one and one-half hours while they waited for transplant surgeons to arrive, which helps keep the organs in good condition. When the surgeons began operating on the donor to remove his organs, he began to breathe, his pupils became responsive, and he reacted to pain. Several weeks later the patient was walking and talking.

This and similar other patients have bolstered the ongoing debate among medical professionals who question whether a "brain dead" donor is truly dead. Obviously no donor recovers after his vital organs including a beating heart are excised. Every time a heart is taken for transplantation, the surgeon stops the beating heart just as the heart is lifted from the chest.

5) At last year's meeting of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the world- renowned neurologist Dr. Alan Shewmon requested ten minutes to present to the members of the Academy one of the most extraordinary cases that helped to convince him to change his position on "brain death" as actual death. He supported the "brain death" theory until he was presented the case of a four year old who had been declared "brain dead" by very competent physicians. The mother was told that there were no brainwaves and was asked to donate the boy's organs. The mother refused and took her son home with a ventilator. The boy grew and lived another 20 years. After true death his brain was examined. His brain, including the brainstem, had been destroyed and yet he continued to live all those years.

6) Repeatedly, and as recently as January 2008 in Neurology, it was reported that there is no consensus about which of the hundreds of disparate sets of criteria should be used to declare a person "brain dead." A person can be declared "brain dead" by one set, but be very much alive by other sets. As Dr. Shewmon put it, "Western society seems to be rapidly approaching a stage where the moment of death will be determined not so much by objective bodily changes as by the philosophy of personhood of those in charge."

7) In truth, a person is either living or dead. Furthermore, every set of criteria for "brain death" includes an apnea test. ("Apnea" means absence of breathing.) This test, which has no benefit for the comatose patient and, in fact, aggravates the patient's already compromised condition, is done without the knowledge or informed consent of family members. When a patient is on a life- supporting ventilator to receive oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide, turning off the ventilator to see if they can breathe on their own is the same as choking or suffocating this living human person.

The resulting accumulation of carbon dioxide in the body can cause further damage to already injured cells of the brain and even true death. An increase in carbon dioxide can cause the brain to swell, which further decreases the already compromised circulation within the skull. When the brain, heart, lungs, or other vital organs are in a damaged state, even a very short time without breathing will further damage them.

The apnea test, during which the ventilator is turned off for up to 10 minutes until the carbon dioxide goes to 60 or higher (normal is 35-45), can induce a decrease in blood pressure or cardiac arrest. The sole purpose of the apnea test is to determine the patient's ability to breathe on his own in order to declare him "brain dead." It is ludicrous to perform a stressful, possibly lethal, apnea test on a patient who has just undergone severe head trauma. To turn off the ventilator for up to ten minutes as part of the declaration of "brain death" risks further damage and even killing a comatose patient, who might otherwise survive and resume spontaneous breathing if treated properly.

8) While we agree that life is a gift from God, there is no difference between killing an innocent human life within the mother's womb, and killing an innocent human person outside the womb before his natural end. Both acts impose death. It is common knowledge today that, unfortunately, both abortion and the harvesting of vital organs have become billion-dollar businesses.

9) In the past, the pro-abortion forces used false litanies to convince the public and legislators that legalizing abortion would diminish "back-alley" abortions that often ended in the death of the woman due to the unsanitary conditions of the procedure. History has proven that the legalization of abortion is responsible for the proliferation of abortion to unprecedented proportions. History could easily repeat itself regarding organ transplantation if the leadership of the Catholic Church does not stop collaborating with gigantic special-interest groups who promote the culture of death. It is no secret to the transplant organizations that if the Catholic Church would endorse, encourage, and promote organ transplants worldwide, the trafficking of human organs would multiply to no end.

10) It is no secret that abuses are taking place in developing countries, without forgetting that transplant surgeons from the West have been encouraging and training surgeons in other countries on the profitable practice. It is not uncommon to read reports in the newspapers of poor countries regarding the disappearance of children. It is suspected that they are part of the trafficking and sale of human organs.

Josef Siefert

Despite the seriousness of these concerns, our petitions were ignored and the conference took place.

It was incomprehensible to us as to why the leadership of the Pontifical Academy for Life was lending its support and Vatican facilities and, most dangerous of all, risking the reputation of our Holy Church by collaborating with the entities whose practices are contrary to Roman Catholic Church teachings. Such collaboration would give the appearance that the Catholic Church is willing to compromise its moral principles and unite her efforts with entities that violate divine and natural laws.

As if this were not bad enough, leading organ transplant surgeons from developed nations have been influencing higher authorities within the Vatican that it is evil to steal organs in less developed countries, but that it is acceptable for transplant surgeons in developed nations. This is another kind of euthanasia.

The world-renowned philosopher Josef Siefert made a dramatic argument on the fallacy of relying on "brain death":

"During the first six weeks of pregnancy our body lives without a functioning brain and hence our human life does not begin with the human brain. Certainly, the embryo is alive, but his life is not bound to the functioning of his brain. Therefore, the thesis of 'brain death' being the actual death of the person which ties human life inseparably to a functioning brain goes against this biological fact: The development of the embryonic body proves that the brain cannot be simply the seat of the human person's life or soul. To hold the opposite view, you have to defend the position that the human soul is created or enters the body only after the human brain is formed."

We fear that those forces that encouraged the 2008 conference had two goals: 1) obtain official approval from the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church that organ transplantation is a donation of life; 2) disguise the atrocities being perpetrated to living donors; and 3) offer the procedure to be done in clean, sterile conditions. This way, the recipient can be guaranteed a better chance of survival from the transplant operation, as "professional" harvesters of human organs would be conducting it. This sounds eerily similar to the early debate to legalize abortion!

In an address to conference participants, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI said:

"As regards the practice of organ transplants, it means that someone can give only if he/she is not placing his/her own health and identity in serious danger, and only for a morally valid and proportional reason....The possibility of organ sales, as well as the adoption of discriminatory and utilitarian criteria, would greatly clash with the underlying meaning of the gift that would place it out of consideration, qualifying it as a morally illicit act....

"Transplant abuses and their trafficking, which often involve innocent people like babies, must find the scientific and medical community ready to unite in rejecting such unacceptable practices. Therefore they are to be decisively condemned as abominable. The same ethical principle is to be repeated when one wishes to touch upon creation and destroy the human embryo destined for a therapeutic purpose....It is helpful to remember, however, that the individual vital organs cannot be extracted except ex cadavere, which, moreover, possesses its own dignity that must be respected."

Proponents of organ transplantation Doctors Franklin G. Miller and Robert D. Truog published an article in the Hastings Center Report of December 2, 2008, "Rethinking the Ethics of Organ Donation," admitting that "brain dead" donors are alive and all restrictions should be removed in order to obtain more organs for transplantation. Therefore, we can conclude that those involved in the transplantation of human organs accept that they are not truly dead, but the quality of life of the brain-injured comatose donor is so pitiful, he may as well be sacrificed so that his organs can save someone else's life.

It is imperative to recognize that the marketing of organs is not conducted out of compassion, because the surgeons know that if they wait until the "donor" is truly dead, the transplantation of organs would not be successful. The monetary income to both, surgeons and hospitals, is enormous.

New Attacks On Human Life

The latest travesty is that it is no longer required to fulfill any of the many disparate sets of brain-related criteria for death to get organs. Under donation by cardiac death (DCD), which occurs in head-injured patients with brain activity, an order for do-not-resuscitate (DNR) is obtained. Then the ventilator is stopped. The patient is observed until the pulse is not recorded; the heart is beating. The New England Journal of Medicine on August 14, 2008 reported on two babies in Colorado that had their beating hearts cut out after 75 seconds without a pulse.

The lobbying arm of the transplantation of organs industry is so powerful that it has already obtained the approval of 40 states that declare that unless you officially refuse the use of your organs, you are automatically tested to determine suitability as an organ donor. Human persons of all ages, from babies to adults, are being sacrificed by unscrupulous teams of transplant surgeons that specialize in the farming of human organs from living donors.

Hope Continues

On February 19, 2009, a conference was organized by The Life Guardian Foundation, Family of the Americas Foundation and the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (National Council of Research of Italy), Human Life International, American Life League, the Northwest Ohio Chapter of Catholic Medical Association, and other European representatives. These organizations have long denounced the scandal of "brain death" as true death and the marketing of vital organ transplantation, where organs are being farmed out as replacement parts without respect for the dignity and sacredness of human life.

Titled "The Signs of Life," the conference was purposely organized to counteract the November 2008 International Conference sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life. The participants included scientists, physicians, philosophers, theologians, and parents of children who had been "persuaded" that their child was truly dead, only to discover that their loved one had been needlessly sacrificed.

The famous Brazilian neurologist Cicero Coimbra reported the latest scientific information that he and scientists from Germany and Japan are successfully using to save brain-injured patients. They are giving them appropriate doses of adrenal cortical and thyroid hormones, estrogen and therapeutic hypothermia. They are obtaining a 60%-70% success rate.

The conclusions of the "Signs of Life" conference confirmed the tragic fact that "brain dead" donors are alive, because if they were truly dead, their organs could not be successfully transplantable. It would be absurd for the Catholic Church and any other religious institution to support such an evil practice. Some of the presenters warned the leadership of the Catholic Church of the danger of being accused of hypocrisy, defending life from the moment of conception, but ignoring the violations to the sacredness of life until its true natural end.

The Seat Of The Soul

St. Hildegarde wrote about the soul as directed by Almighty God:

"The soul like a fiery globe bearing no resemblance to the human form, takes possession of the heart, mounts to the brain, and animates all the members....It takes possession of the heart, because glowing with the light of its deep knowledge, it distinguishes different things in the sphere of its comprehension (that is, recognizes the objects that fall under the senses). It takes not the form of the body, because it is incorporeal and immortal. It gives strength to the heart, which as the fundamental part governs the whole body, and like the firmament of Heaven it holds together what is below it, hides what is above. It mounts to the brain, because in the wisdom of God it has the power to understand not only what is earthly, but also what is heavenly.

"It diffuses itself through all the members, because it communicates vital strength to the whole body, to the marrow, the veins, to all the different parts just as a tree transmits sap from its roots to its branches that they may clothe themselves with leaves."

"The soul dwells in the fortress of the heart, as in a corner of the house, just as the father of a family takes a position whence he can overlook and direct affairs for the good of his household."

As Catholics we must recognize that our Lord Jesus Christ throughout His public life always spoke of the heart in very special ways. He never mentioned the brain. The various apparitions of our Lord are always pointing to His Heart and requesting devotion to His Sacred Heart, not forgetting the Immaculate Heart of Mary devotion. Any physician can confirm that the human muscles are totally different from the muscle of the heart, because the heart is so special. It is not just a pump, as transplanters like to demean its importance.

St. Hildegarde so beautifully explained it as being the seat of the soul, a sacred place that must be protected and revered as our most precious possession. Once it ceases to function we had better be prepared to face our Creator.

It is out of love for our Church that we feel obligated to remind her leadership that from time immemorial, the Pope has represented the most important moral leadership in the world and as such, has been the staunch protector of human life from its conception until its natural end. The Pope relies on the advice of the Church's academicians. Therefore, it is crucial that those who are making recommendations to the Holy Father be experts of impeccable credentials and who have not been persuaded by special-interest groups.

To collaborate with those who wish to use the Catholic Church's influence and her hospital facilities (many of which are already conducting vital organ transplants using the "brain death" criteria) will endanger forever the reputation of the Roman Catholic Church and her moral leadership would collapse. Surely, pharmaceutical companies, transplant societies, and the World Health Organization are not the most suitable advisers for the Pope.

"Evil may not be done that good may come of it."

(Mercedes Arzu Wilson is president of the Family of the Americas Foundation and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.)

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