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Catholics Unite Against Brain Death Criteria

Over 150 Catholic experts on brain death have just published a statement against the current brain death criteria. Here is their press release, which links to their full statement. As Christopher Bogosh and I are not Catholic, we are not participants, but we think this is a good first step towards enlightening people of all faiths (or none at all) that the brain death diagnosis cannot be trusted. As my recent book, The Brain Death Fallacy reveals, “brain death” is a legal fiction, a way of removing civil rights from living, vulnerable, brain-injured people in order to harvest their valuable viable organs.


We at Respect for Human Life maintain that ALL “brain dead” organ donors are biologically alive, and that the harvesting process causes their death. This press release begins more mildly, saying “At least half of donors declared brain-dead are actually alive when their organs are removed…” Even so, we support this statement in the same way that we support limits on abortion as a means to save at least some human lives, although we would of course prefer banning all abortions and all unethical organ harvests.


The concrete action steps at the end of the linked statement are excellent, encouraging people to refuse to be registered organ donors and to document their refusal to donate. They also call for conscience protections for individuals, doctors, healthcare professionals, and institutions that are opposed to the brain death concept and to declaring death by neurologic criteria.


Press Release

Catholics Unite Against Brain Death Criteria

Patients Still Alive at Time of Organ Harvesting


At least half of donors declared brain-dead are actually alive when their organs are removed, according to a statement endorsed by 151 Catholic health care professionals, theologians, philosophers, ethicists, lawyers, apologists, pro-life advocates, and others, including a brain death survivor and a professional organization.


The endorsers call on all Catholics “to unite against utilization of the current brain death criteria” because they do not ensure that patients are dead. They recommend concrete action steps to protect vulnerable patients, enable informed decisions, identify better criteria for determining actual death, and protect the conscience rights of health care professionals and organizations.


The statement, Catholics United on Brain Death and Organ Donation: A Call to Action (HTML), was published on February 27, 2024. It was prepared by Joseph Eble, a physician and President of the Tulsa Guild of the Catholic Medical Association; John Di Camillo, an ethicist of The National Catholic Bioethics Center; and Peter Colosi, a philosophy professor at Salve Regina University.


Catholic United explains that the criteria for brain death establish only partial loss of brain function. This is now abundantly clear based on scientific studies, a recent effort to lower the legal standard for death, and updated brain death guidelines issued in October 2023.


Catholics United bridges a divide among faithful Catholics about whether the concept of brain death aligns with Church teaching. Some Catholics hold that brain death represents true death when there is complete and irreversible cessation of all brain activity, often called whole brain death. Others hold that brain death does not represent true death. Since the existing criteria establish only partial loss of brain function, all the endorsers—whether they accept or reject whole brain death as true death—agree that “the current brain death criteria in widespread use do not provide moral (prudential) certainty of death.”


Catholics United calls on health care professionals and institutions to cease organ harvesting that relies on the inadequate criteria, noting that 70% of all donors are declared dead using brain death criteria. “Given the lack of moral certainty of death whenever the current brain death criteria are used,” the statement affirms, “a clear majority of vital organ donors can be presumed alive at the time of organ harvesting.” Since the Catholic Church forbids removing vital organs when this would kill the patient, “it is therefore wrong to remove organs from patients declared dead using these inadequate criteria.”


Catholics United makes a number of other strong recommendations, including:


·         Declining to be an organ donor at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

·         Refusing to be an organ donor after death in advance directives.

·         Improving education on end-of-life care and organ donation at the pastoral level.

·         Identifying criteria that will establish certainty of death.

·         Advocating for conscience protection rights for health care professionals and institutions.


Current president and co-founder of the pro-life advocacy group American Life League, Judie Brown, has decided to update its Loving Will Comfort and Care Directive in accord with the new recommendations. “I think that any organization that has a pro-life document addressing wishes at the end of life needs to be updated in view of this article,” said Ms. Brown.


Co-author Joseph Eble explains, “Our statement unites Catholics on brain death and organ donation more than ever before. One of the most important aspects of the statement is that it provides Catholics in the pew with simple, actionable steps which will help them to ensure that the sacredness of human life is reverenced during their end-of-life care. We pray that this statement will help Catholics and pro-life groups to protect vulnerable patients at the end of life, especially when it comes to organ donation.”


Read the full statement here:


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Dr. Miller, you are so right! I have been sending this to various news sites, as well as to pastors I know. If everyone shares this statement within their sphere of influence, I believe the word will get out.



A wonderful development. The complicity of silence by Catholics so far has been a sad thing, as has been the silence of the Catholic Episcopacy ( USCCB, Vatican, etc.).

Now. How to communicate this measure?

Roger W. Miller, MD

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