OTTAWA, Mar 3 ( As the Canadian Parliament seeks to find ways to increase organ donation in Canada, a parliamentary committee has heard that heart transplant “donors” must be alive when organs are retrieved. Ruth Oliver, a Vancouver psychiatrist who was declared clinically dead in 1977 at the Kingston General Hospital after suffering internal bleeding of the brain, told the committee she is “living testimony that people survive.”

Dr. John Yun, a Richmond, B.C. oncologist, testified to the committee that organ harvesting was the impetus behind the brain death theory that has been accepted by the medical profession since 1968. Ten years ago Yun worked in an ICU unit keeping brain dead patients on life support for organ transplants. Yun now believes this activity was wrong. “We must not jump to the conclusion that a dubious definition of death—the medical hypothesis of brain death—is in fact death,” he said.

Dr. Michael Brear, a Vancouver general practitioner, who has for 30 years been raising questions about the ethics of brain death, told the committee that “The so-called ‘beating-heart cadavers’ who are used as donors are in fact living patients. They are sick, they are dying. They are living and not dead.”

Dr. Brear notes that the first successful heart transplant harvesting took place in South Africa. He suggested that racism was behind the decision to approve the procedure since the operation took place under the old apartheid system and the donor was a black woman.

Dr Oliver noted, “unconscious or dying people are not people of lesser value. More and more ethicists, philosophers, and churches are rejecting brain death specifically for that reason.”

Source: The National Post