Organ donation question

So, I have this card (I am not in the US) where I can, if I want to, fill out whether or not I am permitting that my organs are taken when I die.
Quite a while ago I had asked a priest about this… he told me it is ok if I am brain dead. (I think that is the law here anyway, persons have to be brain dead. I think I’ll write it extra on the card again though :wink: )

I have another question though, something that occurred to me just yesterday. I can choose either that all organs, cells and tissues can be taken, OR just certain organs such as heart, lung, skin, etc.

I wanted to choose “all organs” but then I stopped, because this is something I am not sure about, and maybe some of you know something about this:

May some of my cells, if I choose that, be used for immoral purposes? E.g. in the area of stem cell research, which I really don’t know much about, and what is moral and what isn’t). Does anybody here know anything about this, and whether or not it is moral to choose to donate ALL organs, cells and tissues, or better just tick off certain organs? Just thinking maybe some moral theology- interested folks here have more info on this. :slight_smile:


While organ donation after death sounds good in theory, the practice is rife with abuse.

Theoretically, once a person is truly dead, his/her organs could be used (including the stem cells, if they could be isolated from a dead body) without breaking the moral law.

However, in practice, doctors are killing patients who are not truly dead, just in order to harvest their organs. That’s highly immoral, and that’s happening now.

After I learned about the abuses doctors perpetrate, I decided to stop being an organ donor. Dear Kathrin, I suggest you do the same. Until the abuses in the organ donation business are cleaned up, it is better not to be an organ donor.

As an addition, here’s something that would be immoral: collecting egg cells (ovum cells) from a dead woman, or sperm cells from a dead man, in order to create a human being through in vitro fertilization.

I give an example below - a patient who was clearly not dead ("Nurse number 1 documented: ‘toes curled when foot stimulated, tachycardic, hypertensive, flaring nostrils, mouthing with lips and moving tongue, breathing above the ventilator.’ ") - yet they almost killed her, in order to remove her organs. Unfortunately, I could give many more examples of similar abuse. I have been following the abuses in the organ donation business for years and years. I would like to be an organ donor, but I won’t do it as long as we see the system abused on a regular basis.

Quote from :

Patient Presumed Dead Wakes Up Moments Before Organ Donation Surgery

Thursday 11 July 2013

A New York patient awoke on the operating table just as doctors were about to remove her organs for donor transplantation, according to a report from the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The report states that Burns began to have seizures, although the results of head CT scans that were carried out on October 17 and 18 were normal.

According to the DHHS report, EEG scans revealed a “poor prognosis” on October 18. Doctors passed on information to Burns’ family that the brain damage was irreversible and that she had undergone “cardiorespiratory arrest,” which led them to the decision to withdraw the patient from life support and proceed with organ donation.

But nurses reported the next day that the patient showed signs of recovery.

The report states: "Nurse number 1 documented: ‘toes curled when foot stimulated, tachycardic, hypertensive, flaring nostrils, mouthing with lips and moving tongue, breathing above the ventilator.’ "

The DHHS report continues by stating that the patient was evaluated in response to Nurse number 1’s observations by a resident’ and neurologist, but they “did not indicate appreciation that the neurological condition was improving.”

At midnight on October 20, the report shows the patient was moved to the operating room for donation after cardiac death (DCD). It continues: "Patient A opened her eyes and looked at the lights; pursuit of DCD was subsequently halted.

IMHO, consensual organ donation that does not involve ‘abuse’ can indeed be moral and ethical. Comes down to context, intention and purpose, I suppose.

I would never give consent to this
Too many questions have arisen about the possibility of someone’s organs being removed while they are still alive. In fact there have been several cases recently in the news where someone woke after being declared brain dead.
It seems a wonderful idea upon death to give your organs to people in such need. But I think you are taking a chance of being dissected when you are still alive.
Some people after dismissing such warnings still choose to be organ donors. That decision of course is up to you.

There is more detailed information available in the case mentioned above.

“. . . The state Health Department found [St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center]'s care of patient Colleen S. Burns in 2009 unacceptable and a federal agency criticized the hospital for not properly investigating the cause. The hospital’s mishandling of the case was part of the reason the state Health Department fined St. Joe’s $22,000 last September – the largest fine levied against a Central New York hospital since 2002. . . . St. Joe’s was fined $6,000 over the Burns case and $16,000 for leaving a patient unattended before she fell and injured her head in 2011. . . . The state could not find a case similar to the Burns case after reviewing the past 10 years of inspection records, a spokesman said. . . .”

This does not sound like a “system” that “rife with abuse.” It sounds like a hospital with incompetent staff on hand at that particular time and place, with a particular patient with a particular condition: “Burns had been in a deep coma from taking an overdose of drugs. Hospital personnel misread that as irreversible brain damage without doing enough to evaluate her condition, the state Health Department found.”

". . . A series of mistakes that began shortly after Burns arrived in the emergency room suffering from a drug overdose led to the near catastrophe. . . "

“. . . The hospital made no effort to thoroughly investigate what went wrong until it was prodded by the state. . . .”

". . . Dr. David Mayer, general and vascular surgeon and an associate professor of clinical surgery at New York Medical College, also reviewed the records and found the use of a sedative perplexing… . . The hospital erred four or five times, Mayer said. He called the case a gross deviation from all prevailing and accepted standards of care. . . "

Unless someone can tell me that the staff planned all along to “murder” this unfortunate woman and took every wrong step at every available turn in order to “steal” her organs, then I doubt there was an army of medical ghouls standing around with scalpels ready to pounce before she took her final breath.

Commentor Jonny Smith said it right in his post following the article: “For a hospital that makes millions of dollars a year a few thousand dollars isn’t even a slap on the wrist it is simply a stern look. The fine isn’t punitive enough to cause any real changes.”

Commentor MMD211 had a very interesting point – “In my opinion… the potential organ donation probably saved her life. The alternative would’ve been them withdrawing life-support and sticking her in a body bag in the morgue once they were told she died.”

What is most unfortunate? After all this “. . . Colleen Burns, 41, of North Syracuse, recovered from her overdose of Xanax, Benadryl and a muscle relaxant and was discharged from the hospital two weeks after the near-miss in the operating room. But 16 months later, in January 2011, she committed suicide, said her mother, Lucille Kuss.”

Horrible? Yes, absolutely. Would I have wanted to be this patient? Heck, no!!! Does this happen consistently? I don’t think so. Am I a donor? Yes, this doesn’t change my mind. I believe I have been spiritually led to be a donor, and I trust in the wisdom of my Creator who leads me to do that which is good. I also donate blood regularly, and I am a volunteer on the bone-marrow donor registry. Although I’ve not yet been called as a match, I pray someday that call will come. I believe there is no greater act of charity than giving the gift of life to another human being, a stranger.

I do not mean to mis-advise you. Such a decision must be made privately by each and every one of us. I am only providing my personal thoughts and decisions. As a non-Catholic, I had my attorney draw-up legal documents which donate my entire body to science (skin for burn victims, corneas for the blind, etc.), and the cremains (cremated remains) will be presented to my family for remembrance or disposal as I find no need for what is left of my shell to be buried in an expensive cemetery in a plot of ground rendered useless for any other purpose. (There are “green” cemeteries which I actually find a pleasant idea. A person’s remains are interred in a sturdy but cardboard “coffin” which deteriorates quickly and naturally underground allowing the body to do the same, and trees are planted everywhere making for a beautiful forest in which to walk, pray and meditate.)

When in doubt, confide in a Priest - or more than one! - who know(s) your heart, and have this discussion with him/them. If you are a female, perhaps ask some Sisters what their hearts tell them. Let their input guide you through the nuances of your religion and the feelings of your own conscience.

May you be blessed.

Most people don’t have room in their homes for an organ so it is better to donate a small piano. Seriously though, I do not believe in the harvesting and profiteering off of human organs. Yes I realize the organs are donated, but essentially they are profited from in the medical industry even if the profit is hidden by other terms. If I were to have a bad heart, what would it matter if I were to die from it when I have eternal life? I suspect by the way most people cling to their physical life, they do not really believe in eternal life. This POV may be controversial. :slight_smile:

Organ donation is a very honorable thing. For the few horror stories that circulate the internet, there are thousands upon thousands of completely ethical donations by doctors that want nothing but the best. Brain death can be determined, and it is permissible to maintain blood flow and respiration artificially after brain death to protect organs. (Because brain dead people are 100% dead and not coming back no matter what you do.) I fully intend to allow my organs to be donated if they are in good shape. Remember, you do not have to sign anything yourself, rather you can appoint a trusted friend or family member to make the donation decision for you when you die. That way, donation is off the table until they authorize it and they can dictate your wishes about what can and cannot be donated. You will need to check the laws in your area so you can properly appoint someone, but this can be a good middle ground that allows organs to be donated as you wish, even if your wishes change as circumstances change.


Yes that is also something that I was worried about. I wonder if they are allowed to do that, does anybody know?

May depend on the country too.

Since the donor card is found when I am dead, they could not reprimand me for making my own alterations. I wonder if I could just myself add something like “no egg cells” or whatever other concerns I have.

That doesn’t cover the other concern though, about abuses when somebody was still alive. :shrug:
I guess that one has to do with how much you trust the doctors… ;/

Quote from :

In 2008, the New England Journal of Medicine printed an article that frankly argued that “brain death” is a sham. The article, co-authored by Dr. Robert D. Truog, a professor of medical ethics and anesthesia (pediatrics) in the Departments of Anesthesia and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the scientific literature does not support the criteria for ‘brain death’ and ‘cardiac death’ as being real death. “Although it may be ethical to remove vital organs from these patients, we believe that the reason it is ethical cannot convincingly be that the donors are dead,” the article said.

So open has the “brain death” secret become in medical circles that some are urging that such criteria simply be dropped. Dr. Neil Lazar, director of the medical-surgical intensive care unit at Toronto General Hospital, Dr. Maxwell J. Smith of the University of Toronto, and David Rodriguez-Arias of Universidad del Pais Vasco in Spain, admitted at a major conference that the pretense should be ended and that organs should be allowed to be removed from “dying” or “severely injured” patients. This more “honest” approach, they said, would avoid the problems created by purely ideological definitions of death that are known to be mere pretexts to expand the organ donor pool.

I’m thinking about the necessity to start a movement whose members could proclaim:

I’m not an organ donor, AND I’m not an organ recipient! :smiley:

I just did some more reading, about patients being dissected on an operating table, without anesthetic, patients who were given muscle relaxants to paralyze them because they were moving and jerking around as they were cut open to have their organs removed… :eek:

I need the “puke” icon, but can’t find it…

I don’t ever want to receive organs from someone whose organs were removed while still alive, with no anesthesia.

Here’s another story - Quote from :

Zack Dunlap doesn’t remember much from the day he died, but he does remember hearing a doctor declare him brain-dead. And he remembers being incredibly ticked off.


I fully sympathize with the young man… :smiley:

“I’m glad I couldn’t get up and do what I wanted to do,” the strapping Oklahoman said in a soft drawl in an exclusive appearance on Monday on TODAY in New York.


The decision made, there remained only a wait of several hours while an organ-harvesting team flew in by helicopter. The family spent the time saying goodbye.

AHA, here come the body snatchers

Some four hours after doctors declared Zack dead, a nurse began to remove tubes from Dunlap. His cousins, Dan and Christy Coffin, both of whom are nurses, were also in the room. Something about Zack’s appearance made them think that he wasn’t as dead as the doctors said. On a hunch, Dan pulled out his bone-handled pocket knife and ran the blade up the sole of one of Zack’s feet.

The foot yanked away, but the other nurse said it was a reflex action. So Dan Coffin then dug a fingernail under one of Zack’s nails. Zack yanked his arm away and across his body, and that, the other nurse agreed, wasn’t a reflex action. It was a sign of life.

OK, so finally they admit the guy is alive

He’s working to regain his memories and to control his emotions, and he’d like to go back to his job as a warehouse worker. He also wants to get his driver’s license back.

But I bet he’s going to have his name removed from the organ donor registry!!! :stuck_out_tongue:

At Morales’ request, Zack reached in the pocket of his jeans and pulled out the pocket knife his cousin had used to prove he was still alive. Dan Coffin had given it to him as a gift and a memento.
“It makes me thankful that they didn’t give up,” Zack said, turning the knife over in his hand. “Don’t let the good die young.”

Just my personal opinion: as long as the system is so rife with abuse, I don’t even want to benefit from organ donation. I’m not THAT desperate to extend this earthly life. :wink:

If everybody stopped donating organs just because somebody “might” abuse the use of an organ many people will die because there are no organs available. Personally I think that’s a selfish reason to stop donating. The risk of abuse is small.
That’s as bad as parents who refuse to get their children vaccinated because there is a risk (small) that something bad might happen.
The potential benefits FAR OUTWEIGH the risk of abuse.

I think that is a very valid point Thistle.

I was just concerned about the moral implications for the donor when agreeing to become one.
Could we say, as long as I STATE (or the laws require) that I have to be brain dead for donation, then from a moral point of view I as a potential donor am clear?

Leaves this about eggs and stuff like that… I may e-mail the local donor foundation here. I am not in the US though, so laws may differ here from there. Does anybody know (so I can ask clearly in my e-mail) what exactly the church would forbid that might be done with any cells from my body? Just the in-vitro-fertilization?

**I’m not an organ donor, AND I’m not an organ recipient! **

How lucky for you. Why not start your little movement. Unfortunately, as an organ recipient I cannot join you. No doubt I have brought about the premature death of another human being so that I could live. Perhaps I shouldn’t lower myself by trading arguments on here with cretins such as yourself like fishwives, but to read such misinformed tripe is deeply upsetting, and if I took it seriously it would lead me to locate the nearest tall building or river. And believe me, at times I have seriously entertained the idea.

I hope you never have to put your stance on organ donation into practice.

**I suspect by the way most people cling to their physical life, they do not really believe in eternal life. **

Nice point of view. Thanks for that.


(bolded emphasis mine)

Oh no, that’s absolutely not the case. The whole “brain death” theory and practice are so flawed that many Catholic bioethicists now think that organ transplants are always immoral, because there is never MORAL CERTAINTY that the donor is dead.

And without moral certainty, the whole practice is immoral.

See here - Catholic bishops Bruskiewicz and Vasa wrote a piece entitled Are Organ Transplants Ever Morally Licit? - see here

(Are Organ Transplants Ever Morally Licit?A commentary on the address of Pope John Paul II to the XVIII International Congress of the Transplantation Society (By Bishop Fabian Wendelin Bruskewitz, Bishop Robert F. Vasa, Walt F. Weaver, Paul A. Byrne, Richard G. Nilges, and Josef Seifert ) Catholic World Report March 2001)

Also, I know of an anesthesiologist doctor who had his name removed from the organ donor list, after having assisted at organ transplants - quote from :

The late Dr Phillip Keep, former consultant anaesthetist at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in the United Kingdom, risked his career by publicly saying what the anaesthetist profession had been debating privately for decades,

“Almost everyone will say they have felt uneasy about it. Nurses get really, really upset. You stick the knife in and the pulse and blood pressure shoot up. If you don’t give anything at all, the patient will start moving and wriggling around and it’s impossible to do the operation. The surgeon always asked us to paralyse the patient.”

Dr Keep added,
“I don’t carry a donor card at the moment because I know what happens,”

Theatre nurses also express doubt about the health status of the donor. Dr David Hill, also an anaesthetist, checked operating theatre registers at Addenbrooke Hospital in the United Kingdom and discovered that nurses recorded the time of death at the end of organ removal as if the donor had come in to the harvest room alive. This contradicted the official time of death when the patient was diagnosed “brain dead”.

Dr David Wainwright Evans, a cardiologist, formerly of Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, England observed that,

“Nursing staff treat deep coma patients with continuing tenderness and address patients by name, as the coma deepens rather than lightens, perhaps from an intuitive feeling that hearing has been retained.”

Dr Evans says surgeons tell of persistent uneasiness at the unpleasant job of harvesting organs, particularly the heart. He says they don’t get over it despite doing it many times.

The Swedish medical writer, Nora Machado, quotes one expert as saying,

“…Even surgeons are sometimes heard to say that the patient suffered ‘brain death’ one day and ‘died’ the following day.”

D.A. Shewmon, Professor of Neurology and Paediatrics, University of California (Los Angeles) School of Medicine, says some surgeons feel they are killing the donors.

Quote from - co-authored by Bishops Bruskewitz and Vasa. But please folks, educate yourselves, and read the whole article - it has been co-authored by two of our bishops.

(Are Organ Transplants Ever Morally Licit?A commentary on the address of Pope John Paul II to the XVIII International Congress of the Transplantation Society (By Bishop Fabian Wendelin Bruskewitz, Bishop Robert F. Vasa, Walt F. Weaver, Paul A. Byrne, Richard G. Nilges, and Josef Seifert ) Catholic World Report March 2001)


Are Organ Transplants Ever Morally Licit?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2296) teaches that the removal of organs that would “directly bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being” is intrinsically evil. Yet this is what occurs when the surgeon makes the incision to remove the donor’s healthy live organs (usually the liver or lungs are taken first, followed by the heart and kidneys). The donor’s body reacts with moving, grimacing, and squirming, unless the donor is first given a paralyzing drug. However, even with the paralyzing drug, there is an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. The heart continues beating until the transplant surgeon stops it–a few moments before cutting it out.


In response to the increasing number of protests from nurses and anesthesiologists, who sometimes react strongly to the movements of the supposed “corpse,” and because these movements sometimes make it impossible to continue the operation, transplant surgeons have come to rely on the use of paralyzing drugs. These drugs are used in the same manner and dosages as with living patients, but here they are used in order to suppress signs of life–and in order to dissipate the protests and objections of the medical, nursing, and pastoral personnel who are increasingly uncertain that the organ donor is truly dead.

The donor is treated and prepared for surgery in a way similar to any other living patient going to the operating room. After the removal of healthy vital organs, what is left is an empty corpse. Such removal is ethically unacceptable. It is the removal of the organs that changes the living person to a dead one.

Anyone familiar with the moment of death knows that once death has occurred, there is no more breathing, moving, grimacing, or squirming and that there is no longer a heartbeat or blood pressure. The argument of some physicians–that such movements in an organ donor are caused by “leftover energy” in the body–has no scientific validity. It is, therefore, unethical for transplantation surgeons to continue performing such procedures that mutilate a living human body. These procedures treat the donors as if they were artificially sustained biologic entities, rather than human persons worthy of dignity and respect. Later in the Pope’s address, he confirms this principle by stating that “the human body cannot be considered as a mere complex of tissues, organs, and functions….”

The Pope writes:

In this area of medical science, too, the fundamental criterion must be the defense and promotion of the integral good of the human person, in keeping with that unique dignity which is ours by virtue of our humanity.

Consequently, it is evident that every medical procedure performed on the human person is subject to limits: not just the limits of what is technically possible, but also limits determined by respect for human nature itself, understood in its fullness: “what is technically possible is not for that reason alone morally admissible.”

The Pope clarifies his argument by stating that “this particular field of medical science, for all the hope of health and life it offers to many, also presents certain critical issues that need to be examined in the light of a discerning anthropological and ethical reflection.” In response to his invitation, we maintain that the present human transplantation procedures promote the intrinsic good of the recipient while not preserving, but rather extinguishing, the life of the donor.

(bolded emphasis mine)

Please see post 12. When a Harvard medical professor argues in one of the top policy-setting journals (New England Journal of Medicine), that the brain death criterion is a sham, we better pay attention.

It was a sham invented to allow harvesting organs from living patients, it has been re-written 30 times since 1968, a lot of variants are floating around for what exactly qualifies for brain death, and the doctors practically never measure EEG activity or blood flow to the brain, before deciding that someone is brain dead.

But if that wasn’t enough, here’s a whopper for you:

The living baby does not have a brain during the first 6 weeks of pregnancy.

That doesn’t mean we can kill a baby during the first 6 weeks. Brain death alone is wholly inadequate to ascertain death. Per catholic teaching death means the separation of body from the soul, and we have no moral certainty that the separation has occurred in a brain-dead person, or in a human embryo during the first 6 weeks of pregnancy.

However, per catholic teaching, moral certainty of death must precede the organ transplant. It is immoral to mutilate someone before we have moral certainty of his/her death.

Brain death is just an ugly gimmick used to justify cutting open and removing hearts from people who react with increased blood pressure and tachycardia (classical signs of pain), and would be moving and squirming, if not for the paralyzing drugs given. In fact that’s why the surgeons insist that the donor receives curarizant (muscle relaxant, paralyzing) drugs - because he would be moving and squirming in pain.

You are off topic. Obviously we are talking about organ donation when a person is definitely dead. The topic is whether possible abuse of the organs after donation means people should stop donating and the answer is NO they should not stop.

CCC 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.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit