The Church is very clear on the meaning of death. “Death can mean decomposition, disintegration, a separation,” Pope John Paul II said in a 1989 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. “It occurs when the spiritual principle which ensures the unity of the organism no longer exercises its functions in and upon the organism, whose elements, left to themselves, disintegrate.”
The scenario has become a familiar one in the news media. There is a tragic accident, a young victim, and a distraught family. Within the next few days, follow-up stories report approvingly that the organs of the brain-dead patient have been donated. The family expresses relief that at least some good has been derived from what might otherwise have been merely a senseless tragedy. Most readers find little controversy in these stories. Donating the organs of a brain-dead patient has become a routine procedure at both secular and religious hospitals throughout the US, and throughout the world. However, a small but growing number of ethicists tire protesting what they deem an overly hasty rush to procure organs for transplant a rush which, they contest, is sometimes so hasty that “brain-dead” patients are in fact alive when they are put to the knife. Click here to read more…
The Scottish Government plans to bring forward legislation to change the current situation where it is necessary for patients to choose to donate their organs at death, and such volunteers often carry a card specifying that they wish to donate organs. Read more here.
The system is to be changed so that patients must opt-out – otherwise, our organs may be presumed to be available. I have sent the following email to Aileen Campbell, MSP, Minister for Public Health in Scotland:
Dear Ms Campbell,
With reference to the planned legislation to enforce “opt out” of organ donation, please advise how to go about opting out.
I presume this entails notifying my GP, but I would also like to ensure that I carry a card to indicate that I do not wish to donate an organ, NOR do I wish to receive one, in any emergency situation that may arise, so I presume that there will be a card to read “I do NOT wish to donate”, as there is an opt-in card already available.
I look forward to your advice on these matters, as soon as possible. Thank you. END
Now, I know that the new Catechism of the Catholic Church praises organ donation in the highest terms: Donation of organs after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as a manifestation of generous solidarity… (#2296)
So, why do I have such a revulsion against the very idea? Whatever happened, I ask myself, to accepting God’s will when afflicted with serious illness, albeit allowing for the pursuit of available treatments to improve or restore health. Having someone else’s organs transplanted into us, seems to me, to go way beyond that. However, I get the feeling that I’m very much in the minority on this subject. I won’t be won over: the revulsion I felt when I first heard about organ transplants has never left me – but I look forward to learning how other bloggers view this matter. Over to you!