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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Greater Than, Less Than



Our home town church had the most amazing pipe organ up in the choir loft. For some inexplicable reason the parish powers that be dismantled that one and purchased another big organ that sits on the floor by the side door. Perhaps the organist simply had enough of looking like the Phantom of the Opera up there...or the abominable Dr. Phibes. Still, I miss it and wish it would come back somehow. Which brings us to today's question:

Sister, what do you think about organ donation? I've read several things but I'm just more confused. I fear death will be 'hastened' to 'harvest' the organs, if -God forbid- I ever find myself in this delima what is right?

The only thing I find confusing about organ donation is: if you have had a liver transplant and you have liver spots....who's spots do you have?

I bring this up because in the afterlife you will have your glorifed body. It's going to be your body (which, as I've mentioned is a very good impetus to get in shape NOW, as this is eternity we're talking about) with everything in it.

That means that if you get a liver transplant you'll have to give the liver back to the original owner in heaven. You could go without a liver in heaven, because you won't need it. But you'll have it anyhow.

If you or your organ donor are in hell, you'll still have to give the liver back to the donor.

I wouldn't worry about it, though. For example, you've lost a leg or a finger tip and have been running around all this time without it, you'll get that back in heaven so that you won't miss out on any heavenly pleasure. You'll feel so great in heaven, you'll get both legs and your finger tip back so you can to feel all the available pleasure. (If you land in hell you'll get your old leg back to you don't miss out on any suffering.) So it would seem to me that you won't have to go running around looking for your organ donor, he or she will simply get their liver back and you'll have your old one...the one they tossed out the back of the hospital.

Here's what the Catholic Church officially has to say on the matter:

(from the Cathechism of the Catholic Church)

2296 Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good sought for the recipient. Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as a expression of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent. Moreover, it is not morally admissible to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons.

I think that's pretty clear. You can't give your organs away if it's too risky for you or not very helpful to the donee. It's a very great gift. We want you to do it (that's what we mean by 'to be encouraged'). Everyone has to say yes, especially the donor. You can't kill anyone to get their organs. Even if you really want to.

Which means your confusion only boils down to your own fear. You are working under a faulty premise that equates action with potential risk. Where is Sister St. Aloysius when we need her? You need to replace the "equals" sign with the "less than" or "greater than" signs. This isn't confusing. You do it every day.
Here's your equation in theory: Action=Potential for danger.

Here's your equation in practise: I leave the house healthy=I get hit by a bus.
You don't live by that equation, now do you?
You live by this one: I leave the house healthy>I get hit by a bus. Every single action we take has the potential for risk. Eating is a choking hazard. Walking is a falling hazard. Swimming is a drowning hazard. But you still eat, right? Let's hope so.

Surely we can agree that good done by organ donation far outweighs the possibility of misuse. I'll even go so far as to say that there is misuse already. Poor people selling kidneys and the like. This is where faith has to step in. Check that box on your driver's license!

Faith>Fear.

23 comments:

Saint Maker said...

Great post! BTW Sister do you have email? I would love to have you write about the Freemasons, there seems to be confusion among many about the Churches stance, thought it is quite clear. I've had an ongoing 'kind' debate with a friend about this. She supports it and has a very cavalier attitude towards it... shoot, I digress... anywho donate your goods everyone! You can't take them with you.
Peace,
Judy

Laura said...

LOVE THIS POST. I thought it was beautiful. Faith>Fear

hamid reza said...

hello
your weblog is very good .

lisa said...

Dear Sister, thank you for your wonderful post. May I add that checking the box is not enough to get your organs donated. It's also important to talk with your family and tell them that you WANT your organs to be donated when you are well and truly dead. Also explain why it is in accord with your religious principles (including a little dissertation on the Doctrine of Double Effect so they can use that in their own decision-making). Otherwise they won't know, or they may not have read the Catechism lately, and they may mistakenly think that you wouldn't want it done. It's good to have the talk about heroic measures and so forth anyway, so organ donation is a good way to bring it up. You can ask them to be witnesses on the card, for example. Then you've done your bit, in charity, to help comfort them when the time comes and you're dying or dead. Instead of worrying about what to do, they can say to themselves and others, "I know just what she wanted; she explained it to me."

Alexa said...

Okay, but the BIG issue here is that the person has to be really dead for it to be morally okay to transplant an organ from them.

There really isn't any such thing as "brain dead" unless a person is also "heart dead"...in which case, the person IS dead-dead....but as it turns out the only organs that can be transplanted are "live" organs. And you can't get "live" organs from a dead person. Unless you kill them.

For this reason, the only morally licit organ donations are those that do not cause death --for instance, when a person offers up one of two healthy kidneys, or a lobe of his lung or liver, or donates tissue, such as bone marrow, which can be removed after death has occurred.

Kasia said...

I could be very misinformed - I'm not especially up on my bioethics - but I thought that organs were useable if they are taken a very short time after dead-deadness occurs.

I know, for example, that my boyfriend's father's corneas were taken after he had actually breathed his last. Most of his internal organs were too damaged to be of any good to anyone else, because he died of pulmonary hypertension, but as I understand it they could have been safely taken and used after death occurred.

Anonymous said...

Great post, and may I piggy-back onto it to urge everyone in good health, besides checking the little box on your license and telling your n of k about your wishes after you've shuffled off this mortal coil, to prayerfully consider becoming a LIVE organ donor?
To a stranger?
I can tell you from experience, it is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.

(And I can't speak for liver donors, but giving up a kidney will not interfere a jot with your future ability to enjoy Merlot or Irish Whisky...)

Anonymous said...

Well said, Alexa. Not all organ donation is morally right. People need to be made aware of that and be more specific and clear when speaking on this subject.

TC said...

Thank you sister. And brain dead is dead. Even after your heart stops, you aren't dead until your brain doesn't receive oxygen for 10minutes. This is why your heart can be restarted w/CPR and shocks, but once your brain cells die, they don't come back. If they all die, you're brain dead.

Just because a machine is breathing for you, allowing your heart to beat, doesn't mean you are alive. As soon as the machine is removed, your heart would stop. This is medically proven and accepted around the world.

Organs can be taken from brain dead donors who are still on a vent and from donors who are "dead" dead after their heart stops, but the organs will work better in the living if they come from a donor who's kept on a ventilator.

Anonymous said...

Sister,
Organs to organs. That was the most hilarious seque I have ever heard/read. Holy cow! Being caught off guard with sweet tea in my mouth as I read, I have managed to shower my keyboard in the sticky stuff. If the keyboard ends up not functioning, your blog is well worth the price of replacement. Keep it up, please. You make my days! God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Here is why I asked the question in the first place, what is 'dead'? Body dead or brain dead? I don't fear for myself but -again, God forbid- I every have to make this decision on my child, what is dead by Church standards? And since we're on the subject of dead, what is the Church teachings on burial? embalming? Is there a guide?

Anonymous said...

I have a guide titled:
Questions Concerning Cremation, The Funeral Liturgy, and the Catholic Church. IT says that it is a collaborative effort of the Federation of Diocesa Liturgical Commissions and the Worship Offices of Michigan and Ohio in consultation with Rev. Richard Rutherford. Copies are available...check their website: www.FDLC.ORG
Hope this helps...BJK

mb said...

I am just not comfortable about organ donation - whether it's my own organs, or those of my family members. I simply couldn't bear having to be an organ recipient myself, it is anathema to me, and so I have not ticked the box.
A personal revulsion, I suppose - but I can't overcome it.
My family is well aware of my feelings.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry sister but I have to disagree with you. The issue is that most people are not actually dead before the organ harvestation. They die FROM the organ harvestation. I have researched this to the nth degree because my son is a kidney patient. I donated my kidney to him but our living will specifically states that we do not want him to have a cadeveric organ donation because the donor is murdered during the process of organ harvestation. I have spoken to individuals who have presented talks to both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict-about how brain death is a misnomer and therefore the church cannot support cadaveric organ donations as they are currently being done. I would suggest you go and uncheck your the boxes of your license and revise your living will.

Holly Opalenk
Mother of 5, one who has my kidney

Anonymous said...

Oh don't know if this is going up as a duplicate. NO, NO NO. Unfortunately, you have been decieved like so many others. The Vatican says it is OK, only if the donor is already DEAD. BUT THEY ARE NOT DEAD FIRST. Cadaveric organ donors die from the organ harvestation process...IE. They are murdered on the operating table. I can speak clearly on this topic. My son is a kidney failure patient. I donated my kidney but our living will specifically states that Josh is not to recieve a cadaveric organ even if it means he will die. Unfortunately, so few people really understand what actually happens during the process....If the donors were dead first, the organs would not be good quality and therefore not be viable for transplantation. The Vatican has been studying this topic for awhile. I have spoken with doctors who have presented to both Popes (John Paul and Benedict) information about the misnomer our society calls "Brain death". Until the Vatican clearly clarifies the Church's position on "brain death" no Catholic should be encouraging others to sign their organ donation cards. American Life League has some pamphlets from Dr. Byrne (neonatologist)entitled Understanding Brain Death. I would suggest that you order one and read it and then revise this post as necessary.

Sincerely,

Holly Opalenik
Mother of 5, one who is carrying my kidney

paramedicgirl said...

It is the process of removing the vital organs that kills the patient. As long as someone is using their vital organs, they are not really dead, are they? When does the soul leave the body? When brain death occurs or when the heart is removed? Think about it.

Anonymous said...

Brain death is a misnomer in our society. Death occurs when the body is dead...cellular activity stops, morbidity occurs, cellular respiration stops, all bleeding and circulartory system functions stop, blood pressure drops, all natural healing process such as wound healing stops, body temperatures cools automatically. Death is the absence of life. Death is the separation of the soul from the body. Death is the state of the body without life. After death the body's relationship to the environment is no longer one of exchange. After death the body is empty. After death what is left on this earth is a corps, the remains. In the remains dissolution, putrefaction and destruction occur. When biologically dead, homeostasis cannot be maintained...there is no growth, not even of hair or nails. Wounds do not heal after death. Cells do not continue to respirate after death. Blood pressure is not existent after death, and the body is cold to the touch. The kidneys and liver are no longer functioning. You can pump blood through the body all you want but we can not make a cell respirate with modern technology! We can artificially make the lungs breath but we can not make that oxygen go to individual cells. We can not make a wound heal or hair grow. We can keep a body warm but we can not prevent a dead body from putrfaction short of embalming. So Brain Death is a misnomer....the body is still alive and the body is still alive until the moment the heart is removed and taken for another patient. Try as you might, you can not get around those facts.

Can you prove that soul is only attached to the "brain" and not to the body....I think you would be very far into gnostic heresy there. Where in the Bible or the catechism does is say that the soul is not attached to the body?

Declaration of death ought to be a negative-the absence of life. A person ought not to be declared dead unless a basic minimum of what constitutes and manifests life on this earth is absent. I have a close friend with a child who is missing half of his brain and the other half is smashed by a cyst. Yet he is functioning just fine. (walking, talking and learning) He ought to be brain dead....I have a child, who all the doctors in the world wanted to terminate because his life would be worthless-yet said child is perfectly healthy and normal in all ways (except that he carries my kidney through transplantation)...medical science was wrong....and these were the best of the best. Medical science was also completely wrong for my friend's child...

Do you really want to trust your life and your soul to a modern day doctor? They are wrong sometimes, and no one on this planet is smart enough to tell the future. When the Vatican says that brain death equals death then I will consider rewriting the living will for my son and accepting a cadaveric donor. But not until then and neither should anyone else. And I highly doubt that the Vatican will ever come out publicly and defend "brain death". How can we as humans with all of our intellectual limitations ever really no when the soul leaves the body? That is the real question that should be answered.

Pray to God, that someday. We can technologically reach a point where organs can be removed from a dead person and transplanted without damage. As opposed to now, where organs are taken from a living person who dies in the process.

Justine Schmiesing said...

I have to agree with Holly and the others who point out the problems with using "brain dead" as go ahead for organ harvesting. I believe Crisis magazine ran a good piece on this a few years ago.

Justine Schmiesing said...

Oooh! I found it: http://www.crisismagazine.com/march2002/feature1.htm

Check it out!

TC said...

Then I guess everytime someone has cardiac bypass surgery, they die, because their heart is stopped for most of the surgery.

I'm at least glad to know that most of you won't receive an organ either, so at least you're not hypocrites.

Justine Schmiesing said...

Well, don't be silly.

And I'd gladly give or receive any organs that can be donated morally. I hope that someday advances in medicine will make all of them possible.

The point some of us are trying to make is that you have to be very careful not to to commit sin when saving lives, because soul transplants are pretty much impossible.

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

During heart bypass, the body is still regenerating cells because the body is still ALIVE! The heart may have stopped but the profusion machine keeps the blood flowing, etc. That was a really goofy argument!

What about donating a kidney if it means that pregnancy would be too dangerous after (for the still fertile woman)? That one would be a toughie, I think. Ah well, that one's probably a bigger discussion for a different day. Too many "what ifs"!

Anonymous said...

I donated my kidney to my son and I had 2 more children afterwards and still hope to have more.

Holly