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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Lisa Bourne

‘You can’t have’ marriage equality ‘without polygamy’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Motivated by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage,” a Montana polygamist has filed for a second marriage license, so he can be legally wed to two women at once.

"It's about marriage equality," said Nathan Collier, using homosexual advocates’ term to support marriage redefinition. "You can't have this without polygamy."

Collier, who has has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives with his legal wife Victoria, and his second wife Christine, said he was inspired by the dissent in the Supreme Court decision.

The minority Supreme Court justices said in Friday’s ruling it would open the door to both polygamy and religious persecution.

“It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Collier and his wives applied for a second marriage license earlier this week at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, a report from the Salt Lake Tribune said.

Collier, who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for polygamy, married Victoria in 2000 and had a religious wedding ceremony with Christine in 2007. The three have seven children between them and from previous relationships.

"My second wife Christine, who I'm not legally married to, she's put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy," Collier said.

Yellowstone County officials initially denied the application before saying they would consult with the County Attorney and get him a final answer.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Bigamy, the holding of multiple marriage licenses, is illegal all 50 states, but Collier plans to sue if his application is denied. Officials expect to have an answer for him next week.

While homosexual “marriage” supporters have long insisted legalization of same-sex unions would not lead to polygamy, pro-life and family advocates have warned all along it would be inevitable with the redefinition of marriage.

“The next court cases coming will push for polygamy, as Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged in his dissent,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, after the Supreme Court ruling. “The chief justice said “the argument for polygamy is actually stronger than that for ‘gay marriage.’ It’s only a matter of time.”

In a piece from the Washington Times, LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief and the co-founder of Voice of the Family John-Henry Westen stated the move toward legal polygamy is “just the next step in unraveling how Americans view marriage.”

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Chris Christie: Clerks must perform same-sex ‘marriages’ regardless of their religious beliefs

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By Ben Johnson

TRENTON, NJ, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Chris Christie is not known for nuance. This time, he has turned his fiery personality loose on county clerks and other officials who have religious objections to performing same-sex “marriages.”

In a tone usually reserved for busting teachers' unions, Christie told clerks who hold traditional values, “You took the job, and you took the oath.” He would offer no exemption for an individual whose conscience would not allow him to participate in a union the vast majority of the world's religions deem sinful.

“When you go back and re-read the oath it doesn’t give you an out. You have to do it,” he said.

He told a reporter that there “might” be “individual circumstances” that “merit some examination, but none that come immediately to mind for me.”

“I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” the pugnacious governor said.

Since the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize homosexual “marriage” last Friday, elected officials have grappled with how to safeguard the rights of those who have deeply held religious beliefs that would not allow them to participate in such a ceremony.

Christie's response differs markedly from other GOP hopefuls' responses to the Supreme Court ruling. Mike Huckabee, for instance, has specifically said that clerks should have conscience rights. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order granting such rights and ordered clerks to wait until a pending court case was fully adjudicated before any clerk issues a marriage license to a homosexual couple.

Christie gave up a legal appeal after a superior court judge struck down his state's voter-approved constitutional marriage protection amendment. New Jersey is the only state where such a low court overturned the will of the voters.

The decision to ignore conscience rights adds to the growing number of Christie's positions that give conservatives pause.

The natural locus of support for a Christie 2016 presidential run is the Republican's socially liberal donor class, for personal as well as political reasons. His wife works on Wall Street, and some of the GOP's high-dollar donors – including Paul Singer – have courted Christie for years.

However, this year Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and to a lesser degree Scott Walker have eclipsed Christie as the preferred candidates of the boardroom donors – who sometimes prefer Democrats to Republicans.

Christie also used language during a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition last year, which concerned some major GOP donors.

Christie is reportedly spending this weekend with Mitt Romney and his family at Romney's New Hampshire home. Romney declined to enter the 2016 race himself and may be able to open his donor list to Christie's struggling campaign.

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After having a girl with Down syndrome, this couple adopted two more

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By Ben Johnson

LINO LAKE, MN, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – For most people, having five biological children would have been enough. In fact, for many Americans, large families are treated as a scandal or a burden.

But one family made the decision, not just to have a large family, but to give a home to some of the most vulnerable children in the world: Girls born overseas with Down syndrome.

Lee and Karen Shervheim love all seven of their children, biological or otherwise. Undeterred by having twin boys – Daniel and Andrew, 18 – they had Sam four years later.

They now have three daughters who are all 11 years old. All three have Down syndrome.

And two of them are adopted.

About the time their eight-year-old son, David, was born, Lee and Karen decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome to be a companion to their daughter, Annie.

They made the further unexpected choice to adopt a child from Eastern Europe with the help of Reece's Rainbow, which helps parents adopt children with Down syndrome.

“Between my wife and I, we couldn’t get it out of our heads,” Lee told the Quad City Press. “So many children need families and we knew we could potentially do something about it.”

After originally deciding to adopt Katie, they spent six weeks in Kiev, visiting an orphanage in nearby Kharkov. While there, they decided they may have room in their heart, and their home, for another child.

When they saw a picture of Emie striking the same pose as their biological daughter in one of their photographs, they knew they would come home with two children.

Both girls were the same age as their Annie. She would not lack for companionship, as they worried.

Lee said after the Ukrainian government – finally – completed the paperwork, they returned to the United States, when the real challenges began.

“The unvarnished truth,” Lee told the Press, is that adopting the Russian-speaking special needs children “was really disruptive to our family. They came with so many issues that we had not anticipated.”

After teaching them sign language and appropriate behavior, they moved to Lino Lake, Minnesota and found a new support group in Eagle Brook Church. There they found personal assistance and spiritual solace.

Every year in the past seven years has been better and better, they say.

“I think my girls can do almost anything they want to do,” he said, “and that’s what I want to help them become.”

The family's devotion is fueled by their faith, and it informs the sense of humor Lee showed in a tweet during the 2014 midterm elections:

It takes a special person to believe in the potential of the “mentally retarded,” as they were once labeled. Today, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb will be aborted. The percentage is higher in some countries. Some have even spoken of "a world without people with Down syndrome."

Their God, and their experience, tell them that every child has infinite worth and potential, Lee told local media, and he would encourage anyone to follow his footsteps and adopt a Down syndrome child – or two.

“The message is that it really doesn’t matter where you started or where you came from,” Lee said. “There are endless opportunities for everyone, whether they have disabilities or not. They deserve a shot.”

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