By Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, Italy, February 16, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Dr. Paul Byrne, a physician and one of the organisers of a conference on "brain death" set to take place in Rome this week, has provided LifeSiteNews.com with an exclusive advance copy of his presentation to the conference. (To find out more about the conference, see: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/feb/09021607.html)

According to the prepared text Dr. Byrne will tell the conference that the use of "brain death" criteria, which is currently widely supported, even in the Vatican, results in the removal of organs from living patients, and is tantamount, not just to murder, but to "cannibalism."

In 1968, Byrne relates, the so-called "Harvard report" asserted that the total cessation of brain activity, or "irreversible coma," instead of the stopping of the heart, is the moment of death. "Thus," says Dr. Byrne, "labelling a patient ‘brain dead’ began," a practice that he charges has proved highly lucrative to the organ transplant industry, both in its legal manifestation and in the quasi-legal international organ trade.

This definition of "brain death" has also been a boon to euthanasia advocates, says Byrne, who have used it to argue that patients in irreversible comas are "already dead" and can be deprived of food and water, as was the case with Terri Schiavo in the US and Eluana Englaro in Italy.

"‘Brain death’ is not scientifically valid for true death," Byrne argues. In his presentation he gives a detailed account of the use and spread of the Harvard Criteria for "brain death," which he says were published without patient data or basic science studies.   

"Many sets of criteria" currently exist to "declare fictional death before true death," he says. But there are currently no clearly determined parameters commonly held by the international scientific community. "Many are under the impression that ‘brain death’ implies flat brain waves when in fact there is no requirement to do brain wave evaluation before a declaration of ‘brain death.’"

In fact, it is the action of removing organs from a living patient that "results in true death," he says. 

This week’s conference in Rome follows a Vatican conference on organ transplants that occurred in November last year, and that stirred up controversy by completely ignoring the ethical controversy surrounding the issue of "brain death."

In a speech to the conference, however, Pope Benedict XVI warned that, "The main criterion" for organ removal must be "respect for the life of the donor so that the removal of organs is allowed only in the presence of his actual death."