Catholic doctor has no doubt about brain death

Re:“Catholics testify to benefits of organ donation” (In Focus, Aug. 19) 

Our Sunday Visitor devotes four pages in support of vital organ transplantation. According to OSV, “Some medical doctors and theologians doubt brain-dead donors are actually dead.” As one of many doctors who have studied the subject for many years, I believe that it is more than simply a doubt that someone is truly dead while the heart is beating with circulation and respiration, but that it is not biologically or medically sound to make such a declaration. Would anyone with common sense embalm, cremate or bury anyone while their heart is beating with circulation and respiration? 

The so-called “brain dead” patient is not truly dead when his heart is still beating. The heart is not simply a pump, similar to a sump pump. The heart is a sophisticated organ with its own “little brain.” It has its own nervous system and muscles. 

The beating of the heart begins in the heart. The nerves connect to every muscle fiber. The intrinsic nervous system senses when to pump, when it has pumped enough, then turns off the pump and gets ready to pump again when needed. The heart beats without any input required from the brain in everyone, including the one from whom the healthy heart is taken and the one who has received the healthy heart. 

If the heart is beating with circulation and respiration, can that someone who has been declared “brain dead” or “heart dead” be embalmed, buried or put into the fire of a crematory? No! Does a declaration of death make someone dead? No!  

Any doctor that is worth his salt would not declare death and begin the autopsy on a person with a beating heart, respiration and circulation. Any priest that is worth his salt would not deny baptism to someone with a beating heart, circulation and respiration (assuming that this is an infant of Catholic parents or an adult scheduled for baptism next Sunday). If the priest can baptize, can he accept and theologically authorize cutting into the chest of this same person to cut out the beating heart for transplantation into another person, who might even be a priest? Yes, every heart to be transplanted is a healthy heart taken from a living person who is killed in the process. 

Human life is in the whole body, not just in a functioning brain. 

Paul A. Byrne, M.D.Clinical professor of pediatrics, president, Life Guardian Foundation, Past president, Catholic Medical Association (USA)

Relativistic terminology

Re: “A stirring American defense of the rights of believers” (Openers, Aug. 12)

Two glaring points in Hillary Clinton’s speech focus on: (1) assembly for worship and fellowship — a narrow re-definition of religion, and (2) using one’s individual “conscience” to make “moral choices.” The haunting word “choice” enters the picture. I see echoes of the final verse of Judges, “every man did what was right in his own eyes” — the definition of relativism. 

The administration, and the left in general, have been working hard to change Americans’ perspective. Today’s culture has so twisted our language that both sides of the freedom of religion issue can view Clinton’s speech as supportive. 

J. Pantaleo, Albrightsville, Pa.

Get rid of guns

Re:“America, shooting massacres and the gun control debate” (Openers, Aug. 5). 

I have never read or heard so much abject nonsense in all my life as the subject of gun control in America. The answer is as simple as the nose on your face: There should be no guns; all firearms should be abolished; no one should own a gun. What could be more simple and straightforward than that? 

People with a “High Noon” complex will be psychologically outraged by this suggestion, mesmerized by the warmth of a six-shooter in their hand.  

But I do not think it will ever happen. Unless the Blessed Mother smiles graciously on this Valley of Tears. 

Peter Sale, Paradise, Calif.

People kill people

Consider that cars , a product not intended to kill, are involved in thousands of more deaths than firearms. And can be used as a weapon. Ever hear of a car bombing?  

I can imagine the citizens regularly massacred in the Middle East, in strict gun control countries, wished they had a means to defend themselves, and I can also suspect the St. Louis Post reporter brutally killed a few years ago in her residence wished possession of armed resistance to defend herself. 

The Tate-LaBianca cutlery slaughter, absent of guns in 1969 Los Angeles, had celebrities running out to buy firearms for defense. 

The 9/11 terrorists accomplished their deadly task with knives, said the 9/11 Commission Report. 

Beirut Lebanon, 1983, the rules of engagement prohibited the Marine guards to have weapons loaded! Terrorists rammed a bomb-ladened truck into a barracks, killing more than 200 Marines and sailors. No guns engaged. How we forget. 

Name withheld, St. Louis, Mo.


The Aug. 5 Saint of the Week should have stated St. Dominic had been an Augustinian canon and that he started a religious house in 1206.