Posted by Gary on February 15, 2008
It is pretty frightening to consider that the criteria for brain death varies from state to state and even hospital to hospital. It is possible to be considered dead in one place and alive in another. In an article posted on Medpage Today, David M. Greer, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital, and colleagues found that:
Procedures for determining brain death in 41 U.S. hospitals vary widely and most deviate significantly from practice guidelines issued by the American Academy of Neurology…”
They further reported:
“We found the results at once interesting and disturbing,” “…the findings may call into question the accuracy of brain-death determinations across institutions. Although there were some areas of strong consistency among [adherence to] the guidelines, there were some striking and unexpected areas of discrepancy.”
You can read the full article here.
Posted by Gary on
A Minnesota woman who was declared brain dead in January has recovered and left the hospital yesterday (see her story here). For those of us in Delaware giving consideration to proposed organ donor legislation this story deserves our attention. The diagnosis of brain death is what allows surgeons to remove vital organs to use in transplantation. This woman could have had any of her vital organs removed under her diagnosis and would of course have died.
I stopped by the Division of Motor Vehicles here today to see what kind of literature they provide concerning organ donation (people are asked if they would like to be an organ donor when applying for their license). It is amazing that nothing is said about the brain death diagnosis, just a simple statement of, "after you are dead…". Of course the average person does not delve any further into the facts, they assume that "dead" means death as in unquestionable, undeniable death. The reader is never told that the removal of their vital organs will take place after a diagnosis of brain death has been made, the same diagnosis that Rae Kupferschmidt recovered from.
Is Rae’s case rare? I suppose it is. What does it teach us though? It teaches us that no physician ultimately knows conclusively what is happening with a person and that we must always err on the side of preservation and caution, this is by the way, someone’s life.
Posted by Gary on February 12, 2008
Some months back the state of New Jersey abolished the death penalty. One of the reasons given by Governor Jon Corzine was that the death penalty is “inconsistent with evolving standards of decency.” We must be careful we are told to deal with criminals in ways that hold to the standard of decency. Why may I ask are criminals afforded a level of decency that innocent citizens are not? For example, I wonder what would happen if we were told that a prisoner was going to be put to death by starvation? I am sure the political machine would move heaven and earth to make sure that it didn’t happen. Yet, here in Delaware, Lauren Richardson a 23 year old woman who needs no machine to breathe for her or to keep her heart beating is on a path to death by starvation. Is starving people to death an act of decency? Where is the outrage?
According to Corzine the death penalty also needed to be stopped because:
“…government cannot provide a fool-proof death penalty that precludes the possibility of executing the innocent.”
Think of all the evidence provided in the average murder case: Physical evidence is produced, witnesses are called and give testimony and yet these are not sufficient to move forward with an execution. But turn around and produce a few witnesses who say that someone would want to be starved to death and the government is all ears and quick to believe: “Oh, you have some witnesses who say she wouldn’t want to live like this? That’s all we need, remove the tube.” How reticent we are to apply the evidence for the murderer yet so quick to apply it for someone like Lauren.
Chancery Court Master Sam Glasscock III has ruled that Lauren’s mother has produced evidence that is “clear and convincing”. If a guilty verdict is reached in a murder trial than jurors must also have come to the place where they believed the evidence was clear and convincing. “No”, Governor Corzine and New Jersey declares, “There could be a chance we are mistaken so the prisoner must live.” If all the evidence and process that is involved in convicting someone of murder does not suffice to put to death than the hearsay testimony of a handful of people should never suffice to starve someone to death.
Lauren Richardson did not leave documented, legal instructions of her wishes concerning the situation she is in so just as New Jersey does for convicted murderers, we must err on the side of caution and not harm her. Lauren’s death must not be allowed to happen on the basis of someone else’s interpretation of her intentions.
Posted by Gary on February 7, 2008
Pastor friends and I were among about 30 people (beside press and attorneys) who had a place in a federal courtroom during the Terri Schiavo case. I will never forget how I felt when I heard the evidence on which Terri would eventually be starved to death. Terri did not have a living will, there was no written, legal proof of Terri’s intentions concerning her life but this is what we heard: Terri made a comment after watching a movie about someone on life support and said that she wouldn’t want to live like that. Then we were told that Terri visited a relative in the hospital who apparently was near death and stated that she would want to be on life support.
I remember sitting there thinking, “This is it?” “This is the basis on which you determine that someone would want to be starved to death?” Do you realize how many things we say at the end of an emotional movie or visit to a nursing home or hospital room that we would never want held over us after emotion subsided? First of all (and we must keep making this point) a machine breathing for us or keeping our heart beating is different than a tube to feed us (though in many states a feeding tube is considered life support).
When seeing something difficult and emotional we all make declarations but these are rarely statements based on full information or sufficient time to consider. I am sure no one said to Terri after she made her statement (if she did): “Terri, what if you were on a feeding tube and not a machine?” or “Terri, would you want your death to come by starvation?” It is a frightening and evil thing that Terri Schiavo was starved to death on the basis of a few claimed comments on the heels of emotional circumstances.
Now we turn to Lauren Richardson, and this from the News Journal:
According to court records, Lauren’s mother testified that her daughter said, “Don’t ever leave me hooked up to life support. I would not want that,” while the two watched a program about Terri Schiavo.
Pat Anderson, an attorney who represented Terri’s parents is quoted in the article:
Anderson said her great fear during the Schiavo case was “that all those people who looked at the television screen [and saw the video of Terri Schiavo] and said, ‘I wouldn’t want to live like that,’ might live to regret it because those words might come back at them,” she said. “Those sort of casual remarks would be elevated to an oral directive,” she said– exactly what happened in this case, “If the mother’s testimony is accurate.”
Do we not know human nature? Have we not all said things in an emotional moment that we might not have understood the full ramifications of? Decisions that might end our lives must be deliberative, established by the passage of time (not momentary or in moments of emotion) and must be legally documented. Will this be another person who dies without having her wish verified? I doubt that many people who say that they wouldn’t want to be on life support mean that they would want to be starved to death.
Be careful little mouth what you say, in America it might lead to your death by starvation.
Posted by Gary on February 6, 2008
Watch carefully how the culture of death works to accomplish its goal (article). Throughout the Internet and in a recent post here video has been streaming to show the world that Lauren Richardson while impaired in her health, is not dead. As of today the video is no longer available I went to LifeforLauren.org to find out why and found this posted:
Due to an Injunction against Lauren’s father, by the court appointed lawyer ad litem (allegedly representing the interests of Lauren), we may no longer link to the video which showed Lauren responding to family members. This order, which was signed by Master Samuel Glasscock, asserts the right to privacy of Lauren by the same lawyer who consented to terminating her life.
Lauren’s privacy? Doesn’t this sound very noble? “We are concerned about Lauren’s privacy.” Lauren will die having had her privacy respected. It is always under the guise of good that evil works in situations like this, it is Lauren’s court advocate watching out for her best interest. Somehow we should be chiding ourselves for wanting to intrude on Lauren’ privacy. The law under hands of evil men is used to accomplish evil.
Please bear in mind that Lauren took no legal steps to make it known she would want a feeding tube removed, she is not on a ventilator, she merely needs to be fed and hydrated. Just as in the case of Terri Schiavo, Lauren is on a path to death by starvation on the basis of what someone else claims she said. This is not removal from a machine, this is refusing to feed someone and give them water.
Be certain that much more evil will be done in the days ahead, all very legal, all seemingly well intentioned concerning Lauren and it is all evil.
Isaiah 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness…”
Posted by Gary on February 2, 2008
Apparently you and I are the dummies, we just don’t know death when we see it. Please take a moment to watch this video of Lauren Richardson who will have her feeding tube removed if a recent court decision that granted guardianship to her mother is not overturned. Lauren’s father wants to take Lauren into his care and keep her living.
The people of Jesus’ day knew death when they saw it, we are told that they laughed at Jesus when He said that the girl He came to resurrect was asleep:
Matthew 9:23-26 “When Jesus came into the official’s house, and saw the flute-players and the crowd in noisy disorder, He said, “Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.” And they began laughing at Him. But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. This news spread throughout all that land.”
Of course this girl was dead and everyone including Jesus knew it. Jesus uses the word “sleep” for His disciples who have died. He does so because He intends to make it known they will live again because of Him:
John 11:11-14 “…after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” The disciples then said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead…”
When Jesus arrived and said this girl was asleep, He knew she was dead but the crowd being spiritually dead thought Jesus was serious. Their laughter is revealing, it reveals something basic, we all know death when we see it, it is undeniable. It is as if these people were saying to Jesus, “Do you think we don’t know death when we see it?” If you have ever been with someone as they expire or see them before they are taken to the funeral home you know what death looks like and it does not look like Lauren Richardson.
Did you know that you live in a country that starves people to death who would otherwise remain alive? O I forgot, we just don’t know death when we see it.
Posted by Gary on February 1, 2008
Here in Delaware we are facing a possible death by starvation case. Lauren Richardson is a 23 year old who doctors say is in a persistent vegetative state and is on a feeding tube. Lauren’s father and mother who are divorced are split in their opinion as to whether Lauren should continue to receive food and hydration. Her father desires to take her into his care, her mother is convinced that Lauren would not want to live this way and wants the feeding tube removed. Lauren’s mother was recently granted guardianship. Lauren’s father has appealed the decision which will forestall the removal of Lauren’s feeding tube for three months.
Those who define the terms win the argument. As you read this article from the Delaware News Journal you will note the numerous references to life support. Most of us understand life support to mean an apparatus that keeps our heart beating or breathes for us. Amazingly, this term includes food and water.
At one point, Lauren was on a ventilator which she no longer needs, she simply cannot feed herself. More amazingly, Lauren was pregnant while in this condition and gave birth to a daughter who is now one year old. Though she was able to sustain another life within her and has moved up from dependence upon a ventilator doctors insist that she will not recover.
The matter here is very simple, this is not a matter of keeping someone alive who would otherwise die, this is a matter of feeding and hydrating someone who cannot do this themselves. Lauren is not dead but she will be put to death if her feeding tube is removed. We must never starve people to death.
God held before us an opportunity to do right with Terri Schiavo, we did not. We have been given another chance with Lauren, may God move the hearts of her mother and court officials to do what is right.
I am sure that many have no interest in re-visiting the issues that confronted us with Terri Schiavo. How easy it is to return to our own pursuits and comfortable lives. Our country has come to a place where it is willing to starve people to death. Do we care?
Posted by Gary on January 31, 2008
Delaware lawmakers have recently proposed legislation concerning organ donation in our state (see article here). The system as it now stands is “opt in”. The proposed legislation would make the system “opt out” meaning that it will be assumed that you are donating your organs unless you indicate otherwise. Immediately I have concerns…
Advocates of this law are quick to say that if you don’t want to donate you can opt out. Yes, but it is already the case that if I want to donate my organs I can opt in, why do they see the need for this change? If the issue is that organ donation is my option, I already have an option to donate now.
What is obvious is that lawmakers (and others) feel that we are not getting enough donors and so the purpose of this law is to get more organs. But if it is a matter of one’s option how do they feel this system will get them more organs than the current process? No explanation of how this will result in more donations has been given.
From a governmental position I am concerned that the default position of the state should never be “take”. Do you see the subtle shift here? Up until now the matter has been one that you and I must initiate, now our donation is assumed and the onus is put on us to say “no”. Is this a step toward mandatory organ donation? I’m sure that supporters would assure us that it isn’t. I am also sure that twenty years ago they would have insisted that they would never institute an assumed donation position either but here we are on the doorstep.
My greater concern is that many people do not understand the nature of organ transplantation. Many people assume that organs are taken after we die (as you and I think of death). The truth is that vital organs must be taken while blood and oxygen have been circulating to keep the organ from damage. How does this happen? Through a new (1968) definition of death which now includes brain death. (My concern does not include organ donation which does not result in death. For example I can donate one of my two kidneys or the lobe of a lung to someone without it resulting in my death)
Among the many things to consider here is man’s sinful nature. Fallen man does not see correctly the beginning of life, how can we trust him to see the end of life correctly? If this law passes, the state will force many more decisions to be made as to whether someone is still alive or not. While many will speak of the good that will come, is good acceptable at any cost? What if “brain dead” people are not dead?
Will this lead to keeping people on life support for the purpose of harvesting their organs? What about their remaining organs? If we can keep blood flowing and oxygen in the body and other organs are kept viable will we have holding places where people are stored until their organs are needed?
I fear that we are so far down the road concerning the disposability of life and human beings that the voice of opposition is seen as unloving and insane. Abortion has led us to a utilitarian view of human life, it is almost impossible to alarm us anymore. Others may not see what I believe I do, but I insist that a law like this is an initial step to much that will be evil in the years ahead. Almost every evil has a Trojan Horse. (Please see Brain Death and Organ Transplantation below)
Posted by Gary on January 25, 2008
I have learned recently that legislation is to be considered in Delaware that would make organ donation assumed unless one chooses to opt out. I plan to write later in more detail about my concerns with this but at the heart of the issue is the fact that some vital organs are of no use unless they are taken while someone is still living. I say living, but the medical community has adopted the position of brain death that makes it legitimate in their eyes to take organs from someone whose body and organs still demonstrate the presence of life.
Some years ago I was exposed to medical facts concerning this issue by Dr. Paul Byrne. Dr. Byrne spoke at the church where I served as Associate Pastor. Later Dr. Byrne debated a transplant surgeon from the Medical College of Ohio concerning brain death and I have found myself profoundly effected by the information shared.
I am of the opinion that many have never been exposed to the challenges that Dr. Byrne has presented. I have pasted the content of an interview given by Dr. Byrne with the newsletter of the Michael Fund below. You can read about Dr. Byrne’s credentials at the end of the interview.
Vital Organ Transplantation and “Brain Death”
A Re-Examination of the Basic Issues by Dr. Paul A. Byrne
Since the founding of the IFGR/MF in 1978, the Michael Fund Newsletter has covered many life-death issues, particularly those related to the field of genetics including eugenic abortion, prenatal diagnosis and genetic counseling. In this issue of our newsletter, we examine some important aspects of vital organ transplantation with the distinguished physician and pro-life advocate, Dr. Paul Byrne. Editor, Randy Engel
Editor: Dr. Byrne, how would you describe the body of a human being?
Dr. Byrne: A human person on earth is composed of body and soul. God creates the person. Biologically speaking, the body is composed of cells, tissues, organs and eleven systems, including three major vital systems. No one organ or system controls all other organs and systems. Interdependent functioning of organs and systems maintains unity, homeostasis, immune defenses, growth, healing and exchange with environment, e.g., oxygen and carbon dioxide. Life on earth is a continuum from its conception to its natural end. The natural end (true death) occurs when the soul separates from the body.
Editor: Most adults and children, even if they are not physicians, recognize signs of life, don’t they?
Dr. Byrne: Yes, of course. The vital signs of a living human being include temperature, pulse, blood pressure and respiration. Physicians, nurses and paramedics listen to the beating heart with a stethoscope. Patients in intensive care units have monitors to demonstrate the beating heart, blood pressure, respiration and oxygen in the blood.
Editor: What about the signs of death?
Dr. Byrne: Throughout the ages, death has been and is a negative, an absence – the state of the body without life. The soul has left the body and decomposition has begun. After death what is left on earth is a corpse. The remains are empty, cold, blue, rigid and unresponsive to all stimuli. There is no heartbeat, pulse or blood pressure. The patient has stopped breathing. There is poor color of the skin, nails, and mucous membranes. Ventilation will not restore respiration in a corpse. A pacemaker can send a signal but it cannot initiate the heartbeat in the corpse. Healing never occurs in a patient that is truly dead.
Editor: When we speak of vital organs, what organs are we talking about?
Dr. Byrne: Vital organs (from the Latin vita, meaning life) include the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys and pancreas. In order to be suitable for transplant, they need to be removed from the donor before respiration and circulation cease. Otherwise, these organs are not suitable, since damage to the organs occurs within a brief time after circulation of blood with oxygen stops. Removing vital organs from a living person prior to cessation of circulation and respiration will cause the donor’s death.
Editor: Are there some vital organs which can be removed without causing the death of the donor?
Dr. Byrne: Yes. For example, one of two kidneys, a lobe of a liver, or a lobe of a lung. The donors must be informed that removal of these organs decreases function of the donor. Unpaired vital organs however, like the heart or whole liver, cannot be removed without killing the donor.
Editor: Since vital organs taken from a dead person are of no use, and taking the heart of a living person will kill that person, how is vital organ donation now possible?
Dr. Byrne: That’s where “brain death” comes in. Prior to 1968, a person was declared dead only when his or her breathing and heart stopped for a sufficient period of time. Declaring “brain death” made the heart and other vital organs suitable for transplantation. Vital organs must be taken from a living body; removing vital organs will cause death.
Editor: I still recall the announcement of the first official heart transplant by Dr. Christian Barnard in Cape Town, South Africa in 1967. How was it possible for surgeons to overcome the obvious legal, moral and ethical obstacles of harvesting vital organs for transplant from a living human being?
Dr. Byrne: By declaring “brain death” as death.
Editor: You mean by replacing the traditional criteria for declaring death with a new criterion known as “brain death”?
Dr. Byrne: Yes. In 1968, an ad hoc committee was formed at Harvard University in Boston for the purpose of redefining death so that vital organs could be taken from persons declared “brain dead,” but who in fact, were not dead. Note that “brain death” did not originate or develop by way of application of the scientific method. The Harvard Committee did not determine if irreversible coma was an appropriate criterion for death. Rather, its mission was to see that it was established as a new criterion for death. In short, the report was made to fit the already arrived at conclusions.
Editor: Does this mean that a person who is in a cerebral coma or needs a ventilator to support breathing could be declared “brain dead”?
Dr. Byrne: Yes.
Editor: Even if his heart is pumping and the lungs are oxygenating blood?
Dr. Byrne: Yes. You see, vital organs need to be fresh and undamaged for transplantation. For example, once breathing and circulation ceases, in five minutes or less, the heart is so damaged that it is not suitable for transplantation. The sense of urgency is real. After all, who would want to receive a damaged heart?
Editor: Did the Harvard criterion of “brain death” lead to changes in state and federal laws?
Dr. Byrne: Indeed. Between 1968 and 1978, more than thirty different sets of criteria for “brain death” were adopted in the United States and elsewhere. Many more have been published since then. This means that a person can be declared “brain dead” by one set of criteria, but alive by another or perhaps all the others. Every set includes the apnea test. This involves taking the ventilator away for up to ten minutes to observe if the patient can demonstrate that he/she can breathe on his/her own. The patient always gets worse with this test. Seldom, if ever, is the patient or the relatives informed ahead of time what will happen during the test. If the patient does not breathe on his/her own, this becomes the signal not to stop the ventilator, but to continue the ventilator until the recipient/s is, or are, ready to receive the organs. After the organs are excised, the “donor” is truly dead.
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