Paul A. Byrne, M.D.
Do you really want to be an organ donor?
By Paul A. Byrne, M.D.
January 8, 2013

Life on earth continues until true death. Prior to the desire to get organs for transplantation, no one was declared dead with a beating heart, circulation, or breathing. Every organ for transplantation is taken from a living person. Would anyone with common sense believe that a cadaver, a dead body, would have organs that could be transplanted?

Every organ for transplantation is taken from a living person with a beating heart, circulation and respiration. When the heart is taken for transplantation, the donor is killed. "Brain death" was concocted to get beating hearts and other vital organs for transplantation. A living body can become a dead body only by going through true death (L. mors vera); what then remains is a cadaver. A vital organ that occurs singly, e.g., the heart, cannot be transplanted from a cadaver. Donors must be living. Much information about these significant matters of life and death is kept from the public. What you do not know can kill you. Lack of informed consent is no consent. How much information were you given at the license bureau before you answered the question, "Do you wish to be an organ donor?"

Life is the substantial fact of the unity of the soul and body. Death is separation of soul, leaving on earth, the empty remains known as a cadaver, a corpse. Life is a continuum from conception until true death. When the patient is living with a beating heart, circulation and respiration, it is not biologically or medically sound to apply the word "death" to such a patient. Would anyone with common sense embalm, cremate, or bury someone while the heart is beating with circulation and respiration?

I am alive! Yes, I am writing; my brain is functioning, but so are my heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, etc. There is interdependence of organs and systems to maintain the unity of soul and body during life on earth. No one organ is in charge of all the other organs. When an organ does not function, medicine can support or supplant the vital activity of an organ. For example, a ventilator moves air into the lungs. When the patient is alive with a beating heart and circulation, there will be respiration, which is exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs and all the tissues of the body via the circulation. The ventilator does not move the air out. Only a living body can cause the air to go out. If the ventilator is effective, the patient is living. A ventilator can move air into the lungs of a cadaver, but very quickly after death there is loss of the elastic properties of the lungs and chest so that the air cannot go out of a corpse.

The beating of the heart is intrinsic to the heart. The heart has its own "little brain." The beat of the heart begins in the heart. The brain does not cause the heart to beat. The brain can provide finesse in the heart rate to coincide with breathing. The heart rate without any input from the brain is steady and regular. This is called loss of baseline variability.

The apnea test is part of every declaration of "brain death." To do the apnea test, the ventilator is stopped for as long as 10 minutes. This is suffocation of a living person. The carbon dioxide goes up; this can only cause the patient's condition to get worse. When carbon dioxide goes up, brain swelling increases. No one should have an apnea test.

Life is a continuum from conception until true death. The patient is living with a beating heart, circulation and respiration. It is not biologically or medically sound to apply the word "death" to such a patient. Would anyone with common sense embalm, cremate, or bury someone when the heart is beating with circulation and respiration? It is against common sense and basic biology to declare a person dead while the heart is beating with circulation and respiration.

Patients declared "brain dead" or "heart dead" are living, but they have organs that someone stronger and more powerful desires for transplantation. In "heart death," the patient has an obviously functioning brain. The relatives are persuaded to give a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. Ventilator is then taken away. The living patient is observed until the pulse is not strong enough to be detected or palpated. Note that the heart is beating, but not strong enough for a pulse to be observed. The time without a pulse is 75 seconds or five minutes, depending on the institution. What is the hurry? The reason is that organs must be healthy for transplantation.

Any doctor worth his salt would not declare death and begin the autopsy on a person with a beating heart, respiration, and circulation. Any priest 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 in the near future). 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? Every heart that is transplanted is a healthy heart taken from a living person who is killed in the process.

Unpaired vital organs (heart and liver) are taken from living people who are killed in the organ taking process. The Catholic Church provides theological and moral leadership. This includes not to kill and not to harm. Pope Benedict XVI on November 7, 2008 stated, "Individual vital organs cannot be extracted except ex cadavere." Pope Benedict's "ex cadavere" is Latin for "from a dead body." Neither heart nor liver can be transplanted from a cadaver, a dead body. It is legal to do these transplants in all 50 states. To protect all citizens including Catholics, change the law to: "No one shall be declared dead unless respiratory and circulatory systems and the entire brain have been destroyed. Such destruction shall be determined in accord with universally accepted standards (Gonzaga Law Review 18, No. 3)." This is solidly based medically and unexceptionable ethically and religiously. More truthful education about false death, known as "brain death" and "heart death" can be helpful.

The issues are about life and death. A person is living on earth until truly dead. To cut out a beating heart and other vital organs is anti-life as this ends the life and kills the donor. Yes, it is killing! Killing is compounded, at least emotionally, by dissecting the living donor without an anesthetic. Yes, it is torturous vivisection! Protection of the transplant team is provided through laws designed to get organs, not to protect the innocent unconscious patient: UDDA, UAGA and HIPAA. Medications to reduce pain while mutilating and killing the donor is not an answer. It is immoral to kill an innocent human person. Death is the absence of life. Can absence of life occur while there are many signs of life including a beating heart, circulation and respiration? Ask anyone seven years or older, is someone dead while there is a beating heart and respiration. To cut out the beating heart and other vital organs of innocent Brandon, and not to treat innocent Melissa is cruel and non-professional. A physician ought not kill or harm the patient.

Life is a gift. To shorten life and to hasten death by cutting out a beating heart and other vital organs from one defenseless person to give organs to persons with more power, is murder according to God's law, but is legal according to man's statutes. To attempt to justify such killing by acknowledging that 8 or more others will live is contrary to basic truth about life and death. To further attempt to "soothe" by giving painkillers does not relieve the evil of imposing death on the person from whom the organs are taken. Yes, many surviving relatives of persons from whom organs have been taken suffer for the rest of their life similar to what occurs after abortion. To clarify about the ventilator: a ventilator can assist the vital activities of breathing. A ventilator is effective to support respiration only in a living person and can push air into a cadaver without any effect on respiration . Many are misled by the declaration of "brain death." A declaration of "brain death" is not about stopping a ventilator; rather it is about continuing a ventilator until recipients of organs can be located.

Each person on earth is living until true death. We know about life from observation of persons during life. Life on earth is substantial fact of the unity of spiritual (soul) and physical (body). To maintain this unity there is interdependence of organs and systems. There are 11 biological systems in the human person of which 3 are major, namely, the circulatory and respiratory systems and the brain. No one organ or system is in charge of all other organs and systems. Death is separation of the soul-body unity resulting in the absence of life. To say that death has already occurred while the heart is beating with circulation and respiration is contrary to basic physiology, biology and common sense. The teachings of the Catholic Church about life and death cannot change. Thou shalt not kill is basic in the teachings of the Catholic Church and many other religions. To cut out an unpaired vital organ, e.g., the heart, prior to true death is killing. As evil as such killing is, cutting into the body prior to true death is vivisection. To understand this, we can envision the donor's body as our own. Try to imagine an incision down the center of your own body from neck to chest to pubic area. Then, an electric saw splits your sternum to open your chest. Your beating heart is right there in full view for everyone on the transplant team to see. This is done without anesthetic, but only a paralyzing drug to be sure that no one in the operating room is too uncomfortable, should there be any response of your body besides the increase in heart rate and blood pressure that commonly occurs during transplantation. Yes, the operation to take organs is mutilation to benefit someone else who is more powerful, not unconscious and not paralyzed by drugs. Every Catholic hospital ought to protect and preserve life from conception until true death. The truth will not go away. It is not acceptable to claim moral certainty about death, while using a lethal apnea test to declare "brain death" in a patient with a beating heart, circulation and respiration albeit on a ventilator, then hide behind a Law, a Committee, a Charter, or a Center to justify killing and mutilation. Truth will prevail and it cannot change. Human life is in the whole body, not just in a functioning brain. "Brain death" is not true death; it never was, and never will be. Organ harvesting is a multi-billion dollar anti-life industry.

"Wrong is wrong even if everybody is doing it, and right is right even if nobody is doing it" [St. Augustine (354-430) "

For more information, see

© 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.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

Click to enlarge

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)


Receive future articles by Paul A. Byrne, M.D.: Click here

More by this author


Stephen Stone
HAPPY EASTER: A message to all who love our country and want to help save it

Stephen Stone
The most egregious lies Evan McMullin and the media have told about Sen. Mike Lee

Siena Hoefling
Protect the Children: Update with VIDEO

Stephen Stone
FLASHBACK to 2020: Dems' fake claim that Trump and Utah congressional hopeful Burgess Owens want 'renewed nuclear testing' blows up when examined

Jerry Newcombe
A politically-incorrect prayer

Victor Sharpe
Who truly deserves a state? The Kurds or the Palestinians?

Pete Riehm
Father's Day: When men sing!

Cherie Zaslawsky
RFK Jr.: The silver-tongued spoiler

Randy Engel
A documentary: Opus Dei and the Knights of Columbus – The anatomy of a takeover bid, Part VIII

Linda Goudsmit
CHAPTER 22: What Is Social Justice?

Stephen Stone
A Song for Independence Day: ‘Have You Been To My Hometown?’

Rev. Mark H. Creech
From ancient idols to modern misconceptions: The call to worship only God

Michael Bresciani
Pride Month – Are we proud of the decimation, disfigurement, and death of children?

Tom DeWeese
The second great Colorado land grab

Matt C. Abbott
Dealing with the Dobbs backlash

Ronald R. Cherry
Book Review: Left Imperialism – From Cardinal Richelieu to Klaus Schwab, by Gary Gindler
  More columns


Click for full cartoon
More cartoons


Matt C. Abbott
Chris Adamo
Russ J. Alan
Bonnie Alba
Chuck Baldwin
Kevin J. Banet
J. Matt Barber
Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
. . .
[See more]

Sister sites