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Surgeon in protective clothing in clinic before heart transplantTrue Touch Lifestyle / Shutterstock

(LifeSiteNews) Bioethicists are raising concerns that a new organ harvesting protocol, in which a recently-deceased person’s heart is restarted while a surgeon induces brain death to be able to remove organs from a “warm” body, is blurring the line between life and death. 

“With little attention or debate, transplant surgeons across the country are experimenting with a kind of partial resurrection: They’re allowing terminal patients to die, then restarting their hearts while clamping off blood flow to their brains,” MedPageToday reported in late September.

Read: Re-examining ‘brain death’: Doctors may be harvesting organs before donors are dead 

The article goes on to explain that the procedure, which “allows the surgeons to inspect and remove organs from warm bodies with heartbeats,” has led numerous bioethicists and other health professionals to raise concerns that the controversial procedure is “trampling the line between life and death.” 

“We’re so hungry for organs right now that we are pushing all the limits,” critical care physician and transplant pulmonologist at Vanderbilt University told MedPageToday. “I just want us to be super-cautious. We need to press the pause button on this and have some more conversations so that we can set up boundaries and stay in the right lane.” 

“The dignity of the human who donates organs should never be sacrificed,” he added.  

In 2021, the American College of Physicians also raised concerns about this experimental organ transplanting process, saying that it posed “profound ethical questions regarding determination of death, respect for patients, and the ethical obligation to do what is best.” 

According to the Uniform Definition of Death Act (UDDA) – the recommended legal framework for determining death in the United States – in order for a person to be considered dead, they must experience either “irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions,” or “irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem.” 

As written in the National Review by Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, “If a patient is resuscitated after cardiac arrest — even if the heart could not restart on its own — the person is not dead!” 

“Cutting off blood flow to the brain to cause brain death thereafter seems to me awfully close to active killing,” he stressed.  

READ: ‘Brain death’ is a medical fiction invented to harvest organs from living people: expert

The question surrounding the morality of inducing “brain death” for the purpose of organ extraction is only heightened for Christians and pro-lifers, many of whom question the legitimacy of “brain death” as a true form of death altogether.  

In 2019, Doyen Nguyen, a lay Dominican and professor at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome, contested the concept of “brain death” outright, arguing it is a completely contradictory proposition.

According to Nguyen, the invention of the term “brain death” to describe someone in an “irreversible coma” itself “indicates that the patient is alive, for the simple reason that only a living person can become comatose or remain comatose.”

“In other words,” said Nguyen. “It would be an oxymoron to say that a corpse is in coma!” 

READ: Proposal to redefine ‘brain death’ would put patients at risk of ‘false-positive’ death diagnoses, experts warn