Melbourne Doctor: Most Donors Still Alive when Organs are Removed

By Kathleen Gilbert

MELBOURNE, Australia, October 21, 2008 ( - A prominent Melbourne doctor has written that, contrary to popular belief, most organ donations take place before the donor is actually dead.  He argues that the vague criterion of "brain death" has blinded potential donors to the fact that their organs are often harvested while they are still alive.

Pediatric intensive care specialist Dr. James Tibballs published his controversial views in the Journal of Law and Medicine earlier this month, calling upon medical institutions to review their organ harvesting guidelines to ensure that donors know that they may be volunteering to surrender their life on the operating table.

Tibballs points out that current medical practices usually contravene the law, which state that a donor must display irreversible cessation of all functions of their brain or of blood circulation in order to be eligible for the surgery. Australian doctors, however, usually wait only two minutes after a heart has stopped beating before giving the green light for harvesting, said the pediatric specialist. 

But Tibballs says two minutes is inadequate time to determine whether the loss of circulation is "irreversible." The two minutes criterion was established purely for utilitarian reasons, he says - because waiting longer could threaten the viability of donated organs. 

"It could be troubling for the public to realise that doctors looking out for organ donors are also the ones formulating guidelines on how to declare death for organ transplantation," observed Tibballs.

"For this reason, there should be members of the community and people with legal backgrounds on the committee that create these clinical guidelines used to declare someone dead."

Organ donor groups have criticized Tibballs’ article, expressing concern that it may cause donors or potential donors to reconsider their commitment.

"This could be very damaging to public confidence of brain death diagnosis, because a lot of people might say, ‘we don’t believe in this any more,’ and as a consequence, people might die on waiting lists," said Bill Silvester, the medical director of LifeGift.

Dr Gerry O’Callaghan also dismissed Tibballs’ ideas, claiming that donors should be confident that a brain death diagnosis always means true death. "There is no possibility that they would be conscious, that they would have the capacity to feel pain, that they have the capacity for independent life," he said.

However, although Tibballs’ opponents stress that his opinions are in the minority, there has been growing concern about aggressive organ harvesting policies that fail to ensure that the patient is actually dead. 

LifeSiteNews (LSN) has reported several recent cases in which patients deemed "brain dead" resuscitated only moments before their organs were to be removed.  Such cases have brought more evidence to the table showing that the highly contested definition of "brain death," and the later idea of "cardiac death," do not eliminate the possibility that donors may yet recover from seeming lifelessness. 

LSN published the story in June of a French man who, after suffering cardiac arrest for at least ninety minutes, was being prepared for organ removal when doctors noticed the patient breathing, his pupils dilating, and the patient reacted to pain. Within weeks, the patient that had been considered "brain dead" was walking and talking.  (

In another example, earlier this year 21-year-old Zack Dunlap was spared from dissection when a relative saw him react to touch minutes before he was scheduled to have his organs removed. Zack was originally deemed eligible to donate his organs when doctors could detect no blood flow to his brain. He later said, however, that he could hear the doctors pronouncing him dead as he lay seemingly unconscious. (

In his article "Organ Donation: The Inconvenient Truth," LSN medical advisor Dr. John Shea reveals the disturbing similarity between these "miraculous" cases and other organ donors whose surgeries were successful:

"Some form of anesthesia is needed to prevent the donor from moving during removal of the organs. The donor’s blood pressure may rise during surgical removal. Similar changes take place during ordinary surgical procedures only if the depth of anesthesia is inadequate. Body movement and a rise in blood pressure are due to the skin incision and surgical procedure if the donor is not anesthetized.

"Is it not reasonable to consider that the donor may feel pain? In some cases, drugs to paralyze muscle contraction are given to prevent the donor from moving during removal of the organs. Yet, sometimes no anesthesia is administered to the donor. Movement by the donor is distressing to doctors and nurses. Perhaps this is another reason why anesthesia and drugs to paralyze the muscles are usually given."

Dr. Paul Byrne, an expert in organ donation and neonatologist, has continuously fought against policies and practices that put donors at extreme risk for being pronounced dead prematurely in order to lay hold of their organs.

"Brain death was concocted, it was made up in order to get organs. It was never based on science," Dr. Byrne told LSN. 

Last month, LSN reported that the Vatican is currently reconsidering its stance on organ donation.  Vatican medical advisors are in a heated debate over the ethical standing of brain death and organ donation, which may or may not be resolved before the Vatican conference promoting organ donation scheduled for November. (

See Related articles:

New England Journal of Medicine: ‘Brain Death’ is not Death

Doctors Who Almost Dissected Living Patient Confess Ignorance about Actual Moment of Death

Doctor Says about "Brain Dead" Man Saved from Organ Harvesting - "Brain Death is Never Really Death"

Denver Coroner Rules "Homicide" in Organ-Donor Case

Russian Surgeons Removing Organs Saying Patients Almost Dead Anyway

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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

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By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Building of the European Court of Human Rights.
Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website,, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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A vibrant church in Africa. Pierre-Yves Babelon /
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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

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By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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