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Post by Wosbald »


Source: Crux
Link: cruxnow DOT com/church-in-the-usa/2024/04/new-study-expresses-grave-concerns-over-definition-of-brain-death
New study expresses ‘grave concerns’ over definition of ‘brain death’


Apr 13, 2024 — When does the brain die? While the concept of brain death has been widely accepted by medical professionals since the late-1960s, significant questions about its precise nature still remain.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) released “Integrity in the Determination of Brain Death: Recent Challenges and Next Steps” to draw attention to recent events that should give rise to grave concerns and that call on Catholic leaders in the medical and health sectors to bring consistence and clarity on the issue.

There are two ways medical staff can declare someone dead. The most common is known as “circulatory death,” where a person’s heart stops beating and cannot be restarted.

The second method is brain death. This is declared when a person has sustained catastrophic brain injury causing the permanent cessation of all brain function.

However, people who have suffered a “brain death” can still be breathing with support and have a heartbeat. This makes them better options for giving organ transplants, which has caused some doctors to want to modify the description of what causes brain death.

The NCDC says organ transplantation has extended the lives of thousands of people, but note the Church teaches that vital organs — including hearts, lungs, and livers — may only be taken after a patient is truly dead.

“The failure to resolve an important inconsistency between clinical, legal, and ethical standards for brain death has revealed an emerging breakdown in the public consensus on death and organ donation which, if not addressed, will undermine respect for the sanctity of human life and support for organ transplantation,” said John Brehany, the executive vice president and director of institutional relations at the NCBC.

“It is essential that Catholics in medicine, health care delivery, and academe help to bring clarity and consistency at this critical time,” he said.

The NCBC’s new document notes there have been questions and tensions surrounding the concept and determination of brain death for decades.

“In the context of academic articles, some have blatantly admitted that individuals pronounced dead by neurological criteria are not really dead. Others have pointed out multiple ambiguities inherent in brain death standards and then called for new standards that would permit taking vital organs from patients who are profoundly brain injured but not brain dead,” the document reads.


Joseph Meaney, President of the NCBC said the main source of controversy has been a number of cases where individuals were misdiagnosed as brain dead and then clearly were still alive.

“This led to questions about how accurate clinical testing for brain death is and if enough neurological factors are being tested,” he told Crux.

“The main cause of concern at present in the United States is that while the law clearly requires irreversible cessation of all functions of the brain for a person to be declared dead using neurological criteria, the main protocol for clinical diagnosis of brain death pointedly does not assess neuroendocrine functioning in the patient’s brain,” Meaney said.

“If the hypothalamus in the brain is still functioning, then both legally and ethically — from a Catholic perspective — that person should not be declared brain dead. The NCBC and many others see the need for more comprehensive diagnostic testing to give the required moral certainty of death before the transplanting of vital organs is allowed,” he added.

The new document says beyond ensuring that the deaths of potential candidates for organ donation are determined with rigor and consistency, it will be important to examine how strengthened ethical standards and testing protocols will intersect with governmental regulations, clinical standards, and the significant financial reimbursements related to organ transplantation.

“This will not be easy. Yet, we cannot ignore or shrink from these tasks,” the document says.

Meaney told Crux that Pope John Paul II made a well-known address in August 2000 that said “the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain activity, if rigorously applied, does not seem to conflict with the essential elements of a sound anthropology.”

“Therefore, a health-worker professionally responsible for ascertaining death can use these criteria in each individual case as the basis for arriving at that degree of assurance in ethical judgement which moral teaching describes as ‘moral certainty’,” John Paul added.

“Pope Benedict XVI reinforced his predecessor’s statement, particularly when it comes to the grave responsibility to have certitude that the person has died prior to vital organ donation,” Meaney said.

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Post by Jocose »

Mmm, Science in the news. I have quite a bit to contribute to this thread!
The views expressed here are either mine or not my own, not sure.
The opinions expressed here may or may not be my own.
I post links to stuff.
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Post by Del »

Wosbald wrote: 13 Apr 2024, 11:54 Source: Crux

I find myself in the position of discounting the opinions without even reading the article -- as I have lost respect for the source and the stuff posted here.

I am ashamed of myself. This is neither humble nor wise.

But I don't have to respect sources that have squandered the right to be respected, either. Crux is on the cusp of trustworthiness.... way higher than New York Times or National Catholic Reporter.

Apparently, the issue at hand is the medical definition of "death," as technology advances -- both toward keeping bodies alive unnaturally, and toward saving lives through organ transplants, prolonged medical treatment, etc.

This is a matter for medical doctors, medical ethics policy makers, and religious moral teachers to consider and debate.

As I am none of the above, I shall watch with interest for news from trustworthy sources and keep my opinions to myself.
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