Paul A. Byrne, M.D.
Why are Pastoral Care Workers ignorant of the realities of "brain death"?
By Paul A. Byrne, M.D.
February 16, 2012


Pastoral Care Workers are dedicated to caring for patients in hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities. Pastoral Care Workers include not only priests and ministers at the bedside, but also Eucharistic ministers and other assistants and ultimately, the bishop, who is the shepherd of the Pastoral Care Workers. Because they are in intimate contact with patients and their families, it is understandable that they have been a primary target for indoctrination by the organ donation industry.

Today, Pastoral Care Workers are routinely asked to consult and actually encourage patients in hospitals to become organ donors. They are told to believe the lie that so-called "brain dead" patients are truly dead, when all their senses are telling them just the opposite.

The "brain dead" patient looks no different from what the Pastoral Care Worker had seen earlier in the day or the day before. The patient has a beating heart as evidenced by the beeping of the heart monitor. The patient is warm, not cold like a corpse. The patient's color is normal, not pale or blue like a corpse. Many functions continue, including digestion, excretion, and maintenance of fluid balance with normal urine output. There will often be response to surgical incisions. A long enough period of observation after someone has been declared "brain dead" will show healing and growth; a child will go through puberty. There have been numerous instances of pregnant women with head injuries declared "brain dead" carrying the infant to birth. In the longest recorded instance, the infant was carried for 107 days. The patient has respiration although this vital activity of respiration is supported by a ventilator. The ventilator pushes the air into the lungs, but the living person pushes the air out. In contrast a corpse/cadaver cannot push the air out. A cadaver, a corpse, a dead body is pale, cold, stiff, and unresponsive. There is no heartbeat, no body functions, no breathing, and no movement.

Are Pastoral Care Workers told the truth?

Pastoral Care Workers are accustomed to believe what doctors tell them concerning the patients. They innocently trust that these same doctors will do the best they can for the patients in terms of adequate medical care designed to treat the patients. Unfortunately, this may not be the case when the patient is a potential donor and then declared "brain dead."

Often these patients have suffered extensive severe brain injuries. Pastoral Care Workers see IV fluids and medications being administered to the patient but they are ignorant as to the nature and purpose of these medications which are often not for the patient's benefit but for the benefit of the organ and the organ recipient. A number of case studies have shown that while there are many new and helpful medications and treatments for brain-injured patients, the person who has already been declared "brain dead" will not likely be the recipient of these life-saving techniques.

Most people believe that organs are taken after the patient/donor is truly dead. But the Pastoral Care Worker should know the differences between a living person and a cadaver/corpse. They should know better, but in most cases, they don't. Have they lost their common sense? Are they willfully blind to the reality right before their eyes? Are they victims of psychological intimidation knowing that if they admit the truth that "brain death" is not real death, then they will become persona non gratis in hospital wards?

Lack of information

There is no explicit requirement that prospective organ donors be given adequate information about the procedures involved in organ harvesting so that informed and rational decisions can be made. In almost all cases, the basic medical principles of "informed consent" are denied the patient/donor by transplant physicians, nurses, and industry representatives. This being the case, the role of the Pastoral Care Worker in advocating for the patient/donor becomes all the more important and urgent.

It seems only fair and equitable that a transplant surgeon ought to explain in detail the whole organ transplant process to the potential patient/donor and his family. But how many people will agree to be organ donors after they are informed that:

1. Organs can be transplanted only when healthy and must be removed while there is respiration, circulation and a beating heart.

2. Family and friends will be maneuvered and manipulated into believing their loved one who has been declared "brain dead" is so close to death that there is no chance for recovery and if he does survive, he will be bedridden in a vegetative state for the rest of his life, even though such a prognosis cannot be made with any degree of certainty.

3. The apnea test involves taking the patient off a ventilator for up to 10 minutes. Carbon dioxide is increased to toxic levels that can cause or increase brain swelling, which can only make the patient's condition get worse and might even result in his true death.

4. Organ donors usually need anesthesia or other powerful paralyzing drugs to prevent them from moving during the operation when their vital organs are excised from their body, yet anesthesia and these other forms of sedation are often denied them.

5. Many "donors" are reduced to little more than a bloody empty mess of a carcass after all their organs, bones and skin are removed, but their families will rarely come to know these truths.

6. Their "time of death" will be officially registered after the removal of all vital organs, not when some doctor arbitrarily declares them "brain dead."

Who advocates for the patient/donor?

All potential donors should understand before signing the donor application or donor card that once they have agreed to be a donor, their interests and welfare becomes secondary to that of the organ recipient. They will no longer be considered true "patients" but rather a source of spare human parts and vital organs to be used for "transplantation, therapy, research and education." The donor should know that death will be imposed on the operating table for another's benefit and for the financial good of the organ transplantation industry.

Patients should realize that it costs hospitals and other transplantation facilities money to adequately treat patients to protect and preserve their life. On the other hand, these same hospitals make a great deal of money from "organ transplantation, therapy, research and education." Are Pastoral Care Workers fully aware of this conflict of interest that is generated by the organ transplantation industry?

One of the great tragedies of vital organ transplantation is the adverse effects that are experienced by the family and friends of the now deceased organ donor when they learn the truth about "brain death" criteria. Many families are completely devastated. The very thought that their loved one was not truly dead when their vital organs were extracted is a horrifying one. What a painful reality! These thoughts are often coupled with the ever-lingering question, "Had he or she been treated to protect and preserve life, would our loved one have lived?"

A diagnosis of "brain death" by neurological criteria is theory, not scientific fact. Also, irreversibility of neurological function is a prognosis, not a medically observable fact. The so-called "apnea test" used to check brain function, significantly impairs the possibility of recovery and can lead to the death of the patient through a heart attack or irreversible brain damage. Over time many, including Nilges, Evans, Quay, Salsich, Verheijde, Joffe, Shewmon, Rady, Jonas, Truog, the President's Council, Shah, Seifert, Spaemann, Coimbra, Watanabe etc. have stated that the conceptual and/or medical bases for these approaches to determine death are fundamentally flawed and depart substantially from our biological and common-sense understandings of death.

Are patient/donors the new slaves of medical science gone mad?

The organ donor is a living, helpless person who cannot speak for him/herself. A person whose voice is silenced and whose planned, timed death of convenience is meticulously and methodically sought is the victim of a deliberate act of medical homicide. Apparently, he is outside the laws that govern this land, laws which forbid murder and homicide. His situation, I believe, is analogous to that of the African slave in America.

History records that thousands of Africans were forced by the slave merchants onto ships and transported to our harbors just a few centuries ago. These human beings were not held to be "persons" with inalienable rights but were regarded as chattel, whose utility was determined by their physical ability. On the auction block the African person was examined to determine their strength and physical capabilities. Like livestock, even their teeth were examined to provide evidence of their physical well being as well as to determine their age. The "unfit" were killed and their bodies discarded. Only those who proved to be useful contributors as a slave were sold to the highest bidder.

Have organ donors been swindled into becoming the new slaves and chattel of the organ transplantation industry?

Pastoral Care Workers must face up to the truth of vital organ transplantation

It appears that Pastoral care Workers are no better informed about the truth of vital organ transplantation than the average layman. Nor have they been unaffected by the organ industry's propaganda machine which spill out emotionally loaded expressions like "last wishes," "you can't take them with you," "gift of life," "donate life," etc. However, everyone familiar with the realities of organ transplantation knows that vital organs must be healthy and must be taken before a person's respiration and circulation have ceased and before true death. Removing vital organs from a living person prior to cessation of circulation and respiration causes the donor's death. After true death (Latin: mors vera) what is left is a cadaver, a corpse, the remains. Who would think that healthy organs can be transplanted from a cadaver?

The donor must be given a drug to prevent moving during the operation to take organs. The donor's heart rate and blood pressure increase when the incision is made. This is similar to what occurs during ordinary surgical procedures when the depth of anesthesia is inadequate. Does the donor feel pain? Obviously! Movement by the donor is distressing to doctors and nurses in the operating room.

So-called "brain death" is the usual excuse or justification employed by organ harvesters and their supporters when challenged over why they are removing vital organs from physically alive patients. But "brain death" is not a scientifically settled or provable condition. In fact, there is sufficient expert evidence and controversy surrounding the issue for a reasonable person to conclude that "brain death" is a medical fiction. Pastoral Care Workers in hospitals including all assistants and Bishops are innocently integrated into getting healthy organs from living persons.

Death can be determined when there is no breathing, no heart beat, no response and the body becomes cold. Before 1968 physicians did not hurry the final declaration of death in order not to declare someone dead before true death. Then the desire to transplant hearts and other vital organs prompted the invention of "brain death." This "allowed" the transplant surgeon to dissect the living person. Thus when the transplant surgeon stops the beating heart, the heart is lifted out of the chest to be cooled immediately while en route to the recipient.

This is the truth concerning unpaired vital organ transplantation. It is a truth that pastoral care workers must understand if they are to respond to the needs of patients and their families, rather than the needs and desires of the Organ transplantation industry and its minions.

("Finis Vitae, Is 'Brain Death' True Death?" and more information is available at

Post-script — people who have recovered from "brain death":

The dubious nature of "brain death" as a criterion to select persons for organ donation, is demonstrated by the recovery of "brain dead" patients, including the following:

Rae Kupferschmidt:, February 2008.

Zach Dunlap:, March 2008

Val Thomas:, May 2008.

An unconscious man almost dissected alive:, June 2008

Gloria Cruz:,May 2011

Madeleine Gauron:,July 2011

© Paul A. Byrne, M.D.


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Paul A. Byrne, M.D.

Dr. Paul A. Byrne is a Board Certified Neonatologist and Pediatrician. He is the Founder of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis, MO. He is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at University of Toledo, College of Medicine. He is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Fellowship of Catholic Scholars... (more)


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