By Patricia O’Connell
LEOMINSTER – Organ transplants are big business and patients are often declared “brain dead” in order to harvest their organs, neonatologist Dr. Paul A. Bryne said during a talk last Sunday at the Knights of Columbus hall.
The event was sponsored by the St. John the Baptist Pro-Life League of Saint Benedict Center in Still River.
Dr. Byrne, past president of the Catholic Medical Association (USA), has directed the neonatology and pediatrics departments at Charles Mercy Hospital in Oregon, Ohio. He is president of Life Guardian Foundation, a pro-life organization based in Vancouver, Washington.
He has appeared on television’s “Good Morning America” and “Cross-Fire,” opposite Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a promoter of physician-assisted suicide. The BBC interviewed him for a segment titled, “Are the Donors Really Dead?”
“Organ donation is a multi-billion dollar industry,” Dr. Byrne stated. “It’s larger than the abortion industry.”
“Every organ that’s transplanted is a healthy one and every organ that is transplanted comes from a living person,” he said, adding that these are taken out of bodies with a “beating heart and circulation.”
“Every donor is killed in the process,” he stated.
Although the medical profession declares patients “brain dead,” often following an accident, Dr. Byrne insisted there’s no such thing.
“Brain death was false,” he said. “Brain death was a lie from the beginning. It has always been a lie.”
“Brain death is not true death,” he continued. “Organ transplant is the reason you have to have brain death.”
Dr. Byrne said this term crept into the medical profession following the world’s first heart transplant in 1968. It has since been defined and redefined and is now being replaced by another term known as cardiac death, he noted.
He said donated organs, without exception, must come from a living person. Within minutes of “true death,” which, he explained, is the cessation of circulation and respiration, the organs will begin to die.
This is why, when organs are removed from a donor, the beating heart is always taken last. “You cannot get any organs from cadavers,” he noted. “If you’re really dead, then no organs can be extracted.”
He also pointed out the differences between living and dead patients. One example is cooling the body. This slows metabolism in someone who is alive. It slows destruction in a corpse.
He said a ventilator, which pushes air into the body, can only be used on someone who’s living, as the person exhales the air. Also, if you cut the skin of someone who’s living, but declared “brain dead,” the wound will heal, something that won’t happen in a dead person.
“Clearly there’s a difference,” said Dr. Byrne.
Dr. Bryne went on to describe the damage that can result when doctors perform an “apnea test,” which often sets the stage for organ donation. This is when a ventilator is removed, prematurely, for 10 minutes, to see if a person can breathe on their own. This process, which he called “suffocation,” typically results in the person’s conditioning worsening, he said.
‘No’ apnea test, he said.
Recovery after being declared “brain dead” is also possible. Dr. Byrne showed a widely televised clip of Zach Dunlap, who was close to having his organs removed, following an accident in an all-terrain vehicle. As a nurse was removing his life support, Mr. Dunlap’s cousin, also a nurse, did his own reflex test by scraping a sharp knife against the bottom of Mr. Dunlap’s foot. When he showed “purposeful movement” in response, the organ harvesting was canceled.
He said there are now 175 known long-term survivors of “brain death.”
The audience was warned against registering as an organ donor at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. He advised people to carry a card, or a notarized document, stating they do not wish to donate their organs.
The criteria of “brain death” remains a controversial one, even within the Vatican, according to Catholic News Service reports.
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences has agreed that medically defined brain death means the person is no longer living, but, in 2005, shortly before he died, Pope John Paul II asked to reopen the debate. He has been widely quoted as saying, “vital organs which occur singly in the body can be removed only after death, that is from the body of someone who is certainly dead.”
In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI requested a conference in which 20 medical authorities presented clinical evidence on brain death. The forum was not open to reporters.
Dr. Byrne’s organization, in 2009, held a “Signs of Life” conference in Rome, attended by Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani and Cardinal Francis Arinze.