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Wanted: Dead Or Alive

March 10, 2023 Frontpage No Comments


In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, ovaries are surgically removed from women and ova are fertilized in artificial receptacles and then incubated in specially designed bottles where fetuses are genetically engineered. When they have fully matured, they are removed from the bottles and grow up as men and women specifically designed for pre-assigned ranks in society.
In 1932 when that novel was published, although chilling, the concept of massive laboratory birthing factories was generally viewed as sci-fi nonsense. It served as a warning against tyrannical dictatorships, but little more. But today, ideas that were thought of as preposterous almost a hundred years ago are becoming gruesome realities in a world that kneels before the altar of the physical sciences.
The empirical sciences have, indeed, become our new gods. The true God-given beauty of marital-love and the miracle of creation have given way to the test tube. Some of our elite look forward to a time when “artificial intelligence” will be mankind’s Bible, and at last, worries about morality will be irrelevant.
In a recent essay in The Wanderer, I mentioned a proposal at the University of Pittsburgh to attempt the transplantation of female organs into men who call themselves “transgender women,” so that they might experience menstruation and even be impregnated, resulting in the birth of a child. As sinister as that plan may be, there seems to be no end to bizarre and evil suggestions to replace natural childbirth with man-made technology.
Enter Professor Anna Smajdor, an instructor in “practical philosophy” at the University of Oslo in Norway. Her academic credentials? She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Edinburgh where, she “…first became interested in questions about the interaction between philosophy, science and ethics.” She received her Ph.D. from Imperial College, London, and was a lecturer in ethics at Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia (UK) prior to coming to the University of Oslo. (I found no evidence that she has had any extensive education in the physical sciences or in theology.)
Two common definitions of ethics are: 1. Moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity. And 2. The branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles.
Professor Smajdor may have her own definition of ethics, especially when one speaks of medical ethics. In an article of hers published in November 2022 in the medical journal Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics entitled, “Whole body gestational donation,” she addresses her thoughts on the future of birthing. The professor proposes a quantum leap forward in the use of those declared “brain-dead” on ventilators. Thus far medical doctors have limited themselves to harvesting vital organs from these “bodies” for implantation in critically ill patients. This is an organ donation process that has already been completely transformed over time. One that has resulted in a dramatic decrease in organ rejection. It did not occur because of new and better anti-rejection drugs, but by the acceptance of a different and controversial definition of death. Brain-death is now for many doctors the miraculous answer to what had been their worst concerns regarding organ rejection.
Early in the history of transplanting vital organs, doctors were frustrated by high rejection rates, since organs deteriorated quickly after hearts had irreversibly stopped beating and when circulation and oxygenation to the tissues irreversibly stopped (circulatory death.) By waiting for this event, often the organ or organs doctors hoped to use were already damaged beyond saving. But eventually, the medical community, which was determined to harvest fresher organs, found a path around the death problem, enabling them to harvest organs in almost pristine condition. That pathway was adding brain-death as another way of defining actual death!
By redefining brain-death as actual death, the transplant community received a welcome shot in the arm. The change has resulted in a significant increase in the transplant of vital organs, benefiting patients who needed them and the pocketbooks of those connected with the transplant industry, but no benefit was gained by the donor!

A Mesmerized Population

And redefining death made sense to a population mesmerized by the many, almost miraculous, advances in medicine. If doctors decided something was good for us, it must be. If they told us that a person in a coma was not likely to ever improve, well maybe that person was dead enough to use for the greater good. Hence, a new way of viewing death. One that absolutely accomplishes what is needed for organ preservation. Obviously, declaring ventilated patients with functioning hearts clinically brain-dead, makes transplanting their organs much easier.
Many have come to believe that with this new definition, obtaining vital organs for transplant has become like plucking a fresh carrot from a garden! But what is brain-death, and is it actual death?
The concept of brain-death as sufficient evidence of actual death had been promoted as early as the late 1960s, but it wasn’t until later that the push for legal acceptance became a reality. In 1981 the Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA) was drafted to legitimatize brain-death as a standard that medical personnel could rely on to declare actual death. It soon became “a model state law” eventually adopted by all 50 states.
Under the drafted act, a brain-death diagnosis (usually made in an intensive care unit) is declared by a doctor when he or she determines that three conditions exist: persistent coma, absence of brainstem reflexes, and lack of ability to breath independently. This approach freed the medical community from legal problems, enabling them to use the bodies of brain-dead patients on life support (ventilators) as mere containers to be available, as needed, for body parts.
With this controversial and arbitrary decision to use brain-death as a proof of legal death, patients could be kept in a “vegetative state” indefinitely. This additional definition of death was ingenuous and perhaps even diabolical. With the aid of ventilators, medical facilities could carefully keep a patient in a deep coma, while maintaining a beating heart that ensured circulation and the healthy condition of the organs they wanted, and at the same time, they could claim that the patient had died!
Unfortunately, for brain-death advocates, there have been cases in which those declared brain-dead recovered, some in less-than-ideal condition, and some who fully recovered. In one such case in 2009, a 41-year-old woman, so-called brain-dead, unexpectedly woke up in the operating room just as her organs were about to be harvested! In another case in 2011, a 19-year-old woman suddenly woke up as doctors gathered around her bedside discussing her presumed “brain death and possible organ donation.” These and other cases involving premature attempts to declare patients brain-dead are reviewed by Dr. Doyen Nguyen, MD, STLA, a physician specialized in hematopathology and a moral theologian, in her research article, “Brain death and true patient care” published September 25, 2016.
Unperturbed by any questions regarding brain-death, Professor Smajdor’s article now offers an additional use for these brain-dead “containers.” Why not also benefit from them by making them human incubators for reproducing babies? These unfortunate prisoners of modern technology would become “wombs” for those who want a child, but either cannot conceive naturally, or choose not to. She even foresees that “commissioning parents may prefer to create an embryo for implantation using their own gametes [male and female germ cells] or those of a donor.” This could then be followed up by appropriate hormonal therapy to ensure maximal chance of success.
Smajdor points out that when brain-death occurs that “the patient moves from being the focus of medical concern, to being a repository of tissue that can be used to benefit others. And, of course, the former patient, now the repository of a fetus, would be closely monitored. Although brain-dead, the body would be continually tested for vitamin deficiencies, infections, etc., as would the fetus, or fetuses, to be sure that at birth only healthy products (babies) would emerge. However, if an unhealthy fetus was growing within the donor body, an abortion could be performed upon the permission of the commissioning parents.
Selective terminations on otherwise healthy fetuses could be accomplished as well, if it was determined that a particular fetus may not be of the preferred sex or has indications of features that are not to the liking of the anxious and loving soon-to-be parents. If a decision to abort is made, a surgical procedure might be in order so that the brain-dead body could possibly be used again for another pregnancy, or if that is not feasible nor desired, and there are no other fetuses growing in the incubator/body, then we can assume that the abortion could be accomplished by simply turning off the ventilator. Clean and efficient.
The professor assures us that the brain-dead would not be forced to act as incubators. Written consent would have to be obtained from the proposed surrogates beforehand (presumably, while they still had some use of their more important faculties). On some occasions permission would be sought and granted long before the prospected container becomes terminally ill. However, problems and confusion can occur when little time exists between the patient’s mental awareness of what he or she is consenting to and his or her diagnosis as brain-dead.
Just so feminists might not think that they’re being picked on, Smajdor is quick to add that the use of the brain-dead as incubators for fetal production does not have to be limited to brain-dead women. She suggests that brain-stem dead men are also potential incubators! According to her, “The prospect of male pregnancy is not as many would imagine, fanciful, or a piece of science fiction.” She suggests that “the liver is a promising implantation site” for males, because of its “excellent blood supply.” Who would have thought that the male liver was such an adaptable organ! Remember when radical feminists like Gloria Steinem used to say that “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle”? Well, now ladies, maybe you might want to reconsider that remark. Perhaps, if you’re a woman who wants a child without the hassle of a personal pregnancy, and you can’t find a willing female surrogate, you may want to reconsider the value of men and check out some dying guy’s liver.
Smajdor acknowledges that her suggestions are controversial but maintains that “if we are happy to accept organ donation in general, the issues raised by whole-body gestational donation are differences of degree rather than substantive new concerns.” She does not address the sanctity of life. She does, however, show some reluctance to extend the gestational donation business into those she considers barely alive, those in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). After all, she acknowledges that some of those patients do show signs that they may recover. I suspect though that it wouldn’t take much to convince transplant specialists that PVS patients aren’t that different from those who are brain-dead, and if there’s ever a shortage of the brain-dead containers, well, why not? After all, it would serve the greater good.
Interestingly, Smajdor also raises the possibility of one day society may be able to save all healthy women from the “danger” of pregnancy, which she contends is more dangerous than many natural illnesses. There could come a time, she says when most or all future births could come from brain-dead incubators, thereby freeing women from the burdens of pregnancy altogether.
In spite of the obvious shock and revulsion generated by her obscene proposals, Smajdor wants us to accept as fact that a brain-death diagnosis is sufficient evidence of actual death. But that position is not as widely embraced as she would have us believe. While it is true that many transplant specialists and legal experts have been able to convince state legislators to pass the brain-death laws they preferred, that does not constitute proof of actual death, medically or morally.
Smajdor may envision herself as a leader among progressive thinkers, and certain specialists in the transplant field and those who specialize in reproductive endocrinology may see a financial bonanza available to them by advocating for their definition of death, but their position is not universally accepted, even after 40 years of legislation defending it.
In fact, a review of medical literature dating back to the 1960s shows a definite bias towards using a brain-death definition for actual death, specifically to make harvesting organs more successful. One example, from a 1966 international symposium on “Ethics in Medical Progress: With Special Reference to Transplantation” sponsored by the Ciba Foundation in London, “…several discussions were held on the issue of equating le coma dépassé (that is, irreversible coma) with death, for the purpose of procuring more viable organs, thereby circumventing the poor quality of organs retrieved from true cadavers.” Medical literature since then shows many scientists challenging the motives of those promoting brain-death as the standard for declaring actual death.
The dilemma caused by a brain-death diagnosis presents us with an almost insurmountable challenge, if or when we are in a position where we may be asked to approve a transplant from or to a loved one. Do we accept a doctor’s view that our loved one has passed on, and remove vital organs, thereby assuring his or her actual death? And if our loved one might be saved by taking a vital organ from one declared brain dead, do we say, “Yes, do it,” thereby assuring the actual death of someone else?

Edgar Allan Poe
And John Paul II

The insightful American writer and poet, Edgar Allan Poe, in his short story, The Premature Burial written centuries ago, wrote, “The boundaries which divide Life from Death, are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where one ends, and where the other begins?”
And St. John Paul II in his address to the 18th International Congress of the Transplantation Society on August 29, 2000, said: “The death of a person…is an event no scientific technique or empirical method can identify directly.”
Unfortunately, today’s society’s emphasis on usefulness is rapidly replacing respect for an individual’s right to life, and many of our physicians have forgotten the pledge to “first do no harm.” It began early on with attacks on the unborn and the elderly, and now it also focuses on the gravely ill, as well. “Wanted: Dead or Alive” is a reality. There is a blind rush to throw away the weak and the unproductive. The commonsense view of life and death stated by Poe and confirmed by St. John Paul II’s clear warning against the sole use of empirical evidence to determine the moment of death, has fallen on many deaf ears, advancing the Culture of Death throughout the world.

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