05 September 2008

Transplants and Brain Death. "L'Osservatore Romano" Has Broken the Taboo

Sandro Magister over at Chiesa has written of an important development in the ongoing fight to make the Catholic faithful and all people of good will aware of the moral dangers of the way organ transplantation is currently done.

I have posted often on this topic. The last post elicited a commenter who maintained that the Vatican had definitively signed off on the "brain death" definition. Not really, but there have been statements in the past that lent support to this notion.

Now the Vatican's own newspaper reexamines the issue...

Transplants and Brain Death. "L'Osservatore Romano" Has Broken the Taboo

The pope's newspaper has called into question whether cessation of brain activity is enough to certify a death. And with this, it has reopened the discussion on taking organs from "warm cadavers" while the heart is still beating. The scholars of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences are even more critical. And, when he was a cardinal, Ratzinger...

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, September 5, 2008 – With a prominent front-page article, "L'Osservatore Romano" two days ago reopened the discussion on the criteria for establishing the death of a human person.

[...]

And Benedict XVI? He has never spoken directly on this question, not even as a theologian and cardinal. But it is known how much he respects the arguments of his friend Spaemann.

At the consistory in 1991, Ratzinger gave a speech to the cardinals on the "threats against life." And here's how he described these threats:

"Prenatal diagnosis is used almost in routine fashion on so-called 'at risk' women, in order to eliminate systematically all of the fetuses that could be more or less malformed or diseased. All of those that have the good fortune of being carried to term by their mothers, but have the misfortune of being born with handicaps, run a serious risk of being killed immediately after birth, or of having food and basic care withheld. "

Later, those who are not put into an 'irreversible' coma by disease or injury will often be put to death to meet the demand for organ transplants, or will be used in medical experimentation as 'warm cadavers'. "

Finally, when death seems to be near, many will be tempted to hasten this through euthanasia."

It can be gathered from these words that Ratzinger already had strong reservations about the Harvard criteria and the practice derived from them. In his judgment, the removal of organs from donors at the end of life is often performed on people who are not yet dead, but are "put to death" for that purpose.

Furthermore, as pope, Ratzinger published the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. At no. 476, it reads: "Before allowing the noble act of organ donation after death, one must verify that the donor is truly dead."

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Read the entire article at the link above.

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