in which it is clearly permissible, for example when a person has a
pair of organs (only one of which is really necessary). One can be
removed to transplant to another person, such as a kidney transplant.
other cases in which it is permissible, for example when the
organ can be taken when the person is clearly already deceased,
such as eye corneal transplants.
However, it is manifestly immoral to kill a person to take one of their organs, even if that person would have died on his own within a short period of time. It is never permissible to kill one person just to help another. Only God has power over life and death.
The problem arises
because once a person has really died and his cardiac and respiratory
functions have ceased for several minutes, then his organs will be
damaged in such a way that they cannot be used for organ transplants.
Hence the organs must be removed
first, before the heart stops beating.
dispute involves the determination of when a person is alive or dead.
This involves the
concept of brain death. The medical profession
generally considers that when a person has been proven to be brain
dead, for example by a flat EEG or by the absence of respiration when
the respirator has been turned off (the
Apnea Test, which can cause further brain damage or death), then
he must be considered to be
dead, despite the fact that his cardiac and respiratory functions are
being artificially maintained.
it is permitted, so they
say, to remove any or all organs from a person who is still breathing
and whose heart is still beating, so long as they are proven to be
This has actually become big business, and a "living corpse" like this is worth more than $80,000 for its internal organs.
not only disgustingly inhuman. It is manifestly anti-God and immoral.
Death is the moment at which the soul leaves the body. This is known
only to God, the creator of life. While a person is still
breathing, even artificially, and while his heart is still beating, he
has many signs of life. His body is being maintained in life by the
circulation of blood. He is still a human being.
is true that if his
brain is dead he will never think again, and he will not have the
reflexes and reactions that depend upon brain function. However, this
does not mean that he is not alive. It just means that there is a
permanent irreparable impairment to his human activities. It is not for
man to decide that he is not a man and that he is not alive.
Consequently, he must be treated as a living person. Hence NO essential organs can be removed until well AFTER all respiration and cardiac action have CEASED.
For more information, please read the book titled, "Finis Vitae - Is 'Brain Death' True Death?", the Proceedings of the "The Signs of Death" symposium conducted at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS), February 3-4, 2005.
Holy Family Church, Lindenhurst, NY