Kathleen Gilbert

Shock: requiring death before organ donation is unnecessary, say experts

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert

TORONTO, November 1, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Because organ donors are often alive when their organs are harvested, the medical community should not require donors to be declared dead, but instead adopt more “honest” moral criteria that allow the harvesting of organs from “dying” or “severely injured” patients, with proper consent, three leading experts have argued.

This approach, they say, would avoid the “pseudo-objective” claim that a donor is “really dead,” which is often based upon purely ideological definitions of death designed to expand the organ donor pool, and would allow organ harvesters to be more honest with the public, as well as ensure that donors don’t feel pain during the harvesting process.

The chilling comments were offered by Dr. Neil Lazar, director of the medical-surgical intensive care unit at Toronto General Hospital, Dr. Maxwell J. Smith of the University of Toronto, and David Rodriguez-Arias of Universidad del Pais Vasco in Spain, at a U.S. bioethics conference in October and published in a recent paper in the American Journal of Bioethics.

The authors state frankly that under current practices donors may be technically still alive when organs are harvested – a necessary condition to produce healthy, living organs. Because of this, they say that protocol requiring a donor’s death is “dangerously misleading,” and could overlook the well-being of the donor who may still be able to suffer during the harvesting procedure.

“Because there is a general assumption that dead individuals cannot be harmed, veneration of the dead-donor rule is dangerously misleading,” they write. “Ultimately, what is important for the protection and respect of potential donors is not to have a death certificate signed, but rather to be certain they are beyond suffering and to guarantee that their autonomy is respected.” 

Instead of the so-called Dead Donor Rule (DDR), the authors propose that donors should be “protected from harm” (i.e given anesthesia so that they cannot feel pain during the donation process), that informed consent should be obtained, and that society should be “fully informed of the inherently debatable nature of any criterion to declare death.”

The doctors note that developing the criteria for so-called “brain death,” which is often used by doctors to declare death before organ donation, was an “ideological strategy” aimed at increasing the donor pool that has been found to be “empirically and theoretically flawed.” They also criticize the latest attempts to create new, even looser definitions of death, such as circulatory death, which they argue amount to simply “pretending” that the patient is dead in order to get his organs.

The legitimacy of “brain death,” “cardiac death,” and even “circulatory death” - which can be declared only 75 seconds after circulatory arrest - as actual death has been an ongoing debate in public commentary on organ donation. Many experts assert that doctors familiar with organ donation are aware that the terms, intended to delineate a threshold of probable death, is different from actual bodily death, rendering highly uncertain the moral status of organ donation.

Meanwhile, countless stories have emerged of “miraculous” awakenings following brain death, providing weight to the arguments of doctors and others who say that the process of procuring viable organs not only fails to ensure that a patient has certainly died, but is impossible unless a body is still technically alive.

Dr. Paul Byrne, an experienced neonatologist, clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Toledo, and president of Life Guardian Foundation, said he was not surprised at the recent statements, which he said merely reflect a long-open secret in the organ donation field.

“All of the participants in organ transplantation know that the donors are not truly dead,” Byrne told LifeSiteNews.com in a telephone interview Tuesday.

“How can you get healthy organs from a cadaver? You can’t.”

Byrne affirmed that giving pain medication to organ donors is routine. Doctors taking organs from brain-dead donors “have to paralyze them so they don’t move so when they cut into them to take organs, and when they paralyze them without anesthetics, their heart rate goes up and their blood pressure goes up,” he observed. “This is not something that happens to someone who’s truly dead.”

The neonatologist said he has personally studied the theory of “brain death” since 1975, seven years after the first vital organ transplant in 1968, and has found that death criteria has continually been changed to accommodate a demand for fresh organs. The idea of a “dead donor rule” did not even emerge until the 1980s, he said, and didn’t enter common parlance until years later.

“There really is no dead donor rule, although they’re trying to make it seem like there is,” said Byrne.

Byrne led a Vatican conference on “brain death” criteria in 2008 in which a large group of international experts, many of whom are world leaders in their fields, attested to the illegitimacy of “brain death” as an accepted criterion for organ removal.

The comments by the Canadian and Spanish experts have come under fire from the organ donor community, some members of which have expressed concern that the statements could lead people to opt out of donating their organs.

“In the overwhelming majority of cases, the concept of death is easy, obvious and not really subject to any complex interpretation. It’s very clear,” Dr. Andrew Baker, the medical director of the Trillium Gift of Life Network, which oversees Ontario’s transplant system, told the National Post. “They’re dead, you can see it, there is no return of anything.”

James DuBois, a health ethics pro-fessor at Saint Louis University, also criticized the comments, saying that removing the Dead Donor Rule could “have negative consequences: decreasing organ donation rates, upsetting donor family members and creating distress among health care workers.”

See related article: Vindication of criticisms of organ donation

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Victoria Duran screams at 17-year-old Created Equal intern Ian Spencer at a demonstration in Columbus, OH, July 9.
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Mother plans lawsuit after video of her daughter assaulting pro-life teen goes viral

Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten
By Kirsten Anderson

The mother of a Burger King employee caught on video shoving and hitting members of a pro-life activist group and kicking down their signs during an obscenity-laden tirade against “male privilege” says she will file a civil lawsuit against the pro-life group due to the “emotional distress” her family has experienced after the embarrassing clip went viral online.

The video in question shows Victoria Duran, 28, screaming in the face of a teenage boy who was standing beside an image of an abortion victim and passing out literature for pro-life group Created Equal on a street corner in Columbus, Ohio.  Duran was apparently enraged over a poster depicting a 12-week-old unborn child, which she insisted was a “lie.”

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“That is not what a fetus looks like,” Duran screams in the video. “It’s a clump of cells at 12 weeks. It does not look like that! It’s a clump of blank cells. You’re a racist f—ing male that doesn’t stand for women’s rights!”  She then violently kicked over the poster, and when she realized she was being filmed, physically assaulted the person holding the camera and started running down the street, kicking over another poster as she fled.  

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Seth Drayer, the group’s director of training, pursued Duran on foot and informed her they were calling the police.  She stopped running and confronted Drayer face-to face, screaming obscenities at close range until she spotted the police.  At that point, she shoved Drayer aside and boarded a nearby city bus.  The police removed her from the bus and arrested her on charges of assault and criminal damaging of property.

Duran’s mother, Anairis Carter, who lives in Florida, fought the charges, claiming her daughter is autistic and therefore can’t be blamed for her actions.  The county prosecutor dropped the criminal charges, but ordered Duran to pay $80 to Created Equal to cover the cost of the posters she destroyed.

Now, Carter is suing Created Equal for emotional distress.  She says that ever since the group posted video of her daughter’s violent outburst, her family has received threats and harassment, driving her to purchase a security system for their house.

“On top of emotional distress all the excess things that have to do that have come out of pocket for me to be able to protect my children because of what they've done," Carter complained to ABC6. "It irritates me that [the pro-life activists] are trying to make themselves be victims when they are hardly that if you're a victim you don't sensationalize it.”

On Created Equal’s Facebook page, Carter continued to defend her daughter and vowed to keep up the fight against the pro-life group.

“[Victoria] had an outburst ... autistic people have them,” Carter wrote. “She didnt [sic] deserve everything else that happened afterwards and THAT'S why I AM SUEING [sic] them. They have HURT my children and their lives and their way of life … So, no, I wont leave them alone. The courts will decide on what happens. It will be in their hands.”

In another Facebook post, Carter compared Created Equal to abortion clinic bombers and expressed her support for abortion-on-demand. 

“I am so disgusted by these people,” Carter wrote. “I actually went on their website and I saw the MOST horrendous of things [sic]. These people are using an intro of MLK's ‘I have a dream speech’ [sic] to compare themselves and what they do to to [sic] the civil rights and civil liberties movement. They are comapring [sic] what they do to something so important as this?”

“Trying to overturn Roe v Wade is the most horric [sic] thing there is,” declared Carter. “Trying to send women back to the 30's, 40's, and 50's where llegal [sic] abortions with wire hangers and dying on kitchen tables must be more acceptable to them than the alternative.”

Carter has repeatedly accused Created Equal of lying about her daughter shoving Drayer into the side of a city bus.  In response, the group recently posted a second video that clearly shows the assault, along with a bystander threatening to mace Duran if she continued her violent behavior.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

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If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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