Peter Baklinski

Canada’s new ‘brain death’ criteria slammed as scheme to increase organ donations

Peter Baklinski
Peter Baklinski

OTTAWA, Ontario, 4 September, 12 (LifeSiteNews.com) – As Ontario’s organ donation agency aggressively campaigns to grow a list of registered organ donors, a legal scholar has slammed the updated national guidelines for establishing the moment of death, arguing that the guidelines were deliberately loosened to “increase the proportion of donors eligible for organ harvesting”.

Jacquelyn Shaw, BSc, MSc, LLB, LLM, writing in the McGill Journal of Law and Health, wrote that the updated 2008 Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation (CCDT) guidelines, “dramatically altered the criteria for brain death declaration with the goal of increasing organ supplies.”

In Canada the whole-brain criteria for death has been practiced since 1968, but the new “brainstem” criteria enables doctors to declare a patient brain dead “potentially weeks, or more, sooner than under a whole-brain criterion,” observes Shaw.

This enables the CCDT to hit donor increase targets by “making many more organs available sooner, and in a more transplantable state” – but this begs the question, is someone declared dead under the brainstem criterion really dead?

While organ and tissue donation agencies which operate on the CCDT guidelines, such as Ontario’s Trillium Gift of Life Network, stress that brain death is death itself, underscoring that neurological death is “permanent and irreversible and there can be no hope whatsoever of recovery”, Shaw argues that there are both medical and legal problems with this criteria.

The updated CCDT criterion of death requires that only the lower part of the brain which is responsible for breathing, wakefulness, and certain other reflexes be shown to be permanently non-functional. “Significantly, the CCDT’s criterion contains no requirement for non-functionality of the brain’s cortex, responsible for conscious awareness, voluntary movement, sensation (e.g. pain), and communication,” wrote Shaw.

“A brainstem criterion could declare dead some patients who are only super locked-in. With damaged brainstems, but intact cortices, such patients might retain pain-awareness, but could be declared brain-dead under CCDT standards, making them eligible for (unanaesthetised) organ harvesting.”

Because not all patients may be actually dead when their organs are harvested, Shaw argued that the CCDT’s brainstem criterion may “infringe patients’ rights to life and to physical and psychological security of the person.”

Shaw said that the USA and other nations have rejected the brainstem criterion of death due to a high risk of error.

Dr. John Shea, MD FRCP(C), who has written extensively about the highly controversial theory of brain death, told LifeSiteNews that respect for life means that “it’s important to determine that a person is actually dead before harvesting organs because if they are not dead, and you harvest the organs, you are essentially killing them.”

“With brain death criteria, there is no absolute certainty that the person is dead,” he said. “Criteria for establishing brain death have been deliberately developed in such a way so that even though a person is not biologically dead, they are declared dead so that their organs can be harvested and no one can be prosecuted.”

“The fact is that people have to be alive when their organs are harvested because their organs are harmed when death actually occurs,” he said.

The gruesome fact that organ donors are often alive when their organs are harvested — a necessary condition to produce healthy, living organs — prompted three leading experts last year to advise the medical community to adopt a more “honest” moral criteria that allowed for the harvesting of organs from “dying” or “severely injured” patients, with proper consent.

The experts argued that this approach 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. They argued this 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.

Dr. Paul Byrne, an experienced neonatologist, clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Toledo, and president of Life Guardian Foundation told LifeSiteNews at the time that “all of the participants in organ transplantation know that the donors are not truly dead.”

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

Shaw called the CCDT’s updated guidelines for brain death determination in Canada “significant, dangerous, [and] under-the-radar” adding that they are “virtually unknown” and that they warrant “greater public attention.”

Meanwhile, numerous stories have emerged of awakenings following medical declarations of brain death. In one particularly chilling case, 21-year-old Zack Dunlap, who was in a locked-in state following an ATV accident, recounted hearing doctors discuss harvesting his organs in his presence. Zack showed signs of life mere moments before he was scheduled to be wheeled into the operating theater to have his organs removed, when one of his relatives tried to get him to react by digging a pocketknife under one of his fingernails. 

These stories provide weight to the arguments of doctors, like Shea and Byrne who say that the declaration of brain death is not sufficient to arrive at a moral certitude of actual death and that the recovery of organs based on that declaration is immoral.

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

Thank you so much for your support. 

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