Archives For brain death

8 years

Jamie Caulk grave

Today makes 8 years since my son, Jamie went to heaven. No matter how you are moving along in life, as the calendar creeps toward October, a sadness overwhelms my heart.

If you haven’t listened to my son’s song, it is on the right hand column on this blog. Jamie wrote and recorded all his songs and this one is so prophetic.

8 in the bible means new beginnings. Jesus created the world in 7 days and rested on the 7th. On the 8th day it was a new beginning. I’ve been thinking about the number 8 a lot this week, pondering if it has meaning for my family since Jamies journey to heaven

Bobby Reyes

Bobby Reyes is the 14 year old boy who was disconnected from life-support on Tuesday, October 15th. at Mott’s Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.

October 15th is the day we received our first brain dead diagnosis at Vanderbilt. Of course it was overturned and more tests were done. Tests like the Apnea which we did not know were harmful for my son and yet the “gold standard” for pronouncing “brain death.”

The blood flow that they “said” would show NO blood flow but with thousands praying for a positive blood flow test, there was blood flow. It was so obvious and the technician administrating the test looked at me and smiled and said there was blood flow. But, Vanderbilt back-tracked and said “well, we expected some blood flow…it’s just not in the right place.”

OK, so why didn’t you say that?

Yesterday, I drove to Flat Rock to pay my respects to Bobby Reyes and his family. The first person I walked in to was Sarah, Bobby’s mom.

After expressing my condolences, I told her that 8 years ago tomorrow was when my son, Jamie went to heaven.

She said, “well you know exactly what I am going through”.

Yes, grieving mom’s KNOW.

Child loss is like no other grief. Here we are at 8 years and I’m still holding on.

Bobby and Jamie have seen it ALL. Jesus and heaven in all it’s glory. A hope that we all long for while living on earth.

Randy Alcorn, who’s book Heaven changed my life says it this way.

I think of our lives in terms of a dot and a line, signifying two phases. Our present life on earth is the dot. It begins. It ends. It’s brief. However, from the dot, a line extends that goes on forever. That line is eternity, which Christians will spend in heaven. Right now we’re living in the dot. But what are we living for? The shortsighted person lives for the dot. The person with perspective lives for the line.

I have no idea what God has in store for me or Sarah, but I know God’s plan will not be thwarted.

I think of Tammi Carr who lost her son, Chad Carr and started a ChadTough Foundation and is now raising money for pediatric research into DIPG, (Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma).

To date, The ChadTough Foundation has raised more than $9 million to support pediatric brain cancer research, with an emphasis on DIPG. 

The amazing work of a grieving mother, working to help save other children and parents from the loss she and her family endure without Chad.

Sarah, told me yesterday she wants to work on a Bobby’s Law to prevent hospitals from unplugging their children or loved ones from a ventilator until enough time is allowed to see if they will recover. She mentioned 30 days, which is interesting because I have told my own kids IF I am ever on a ventilator to allow 30 days to see if I will recover and then let me go.

This sounds reasonable to me. See not forever but time.

I told Sarah, I wanted to include in Bobby’s Law that parents be told what the Apnea test is and does. Why should hospitals be allowed to say, “we’re going to do one more test” without explaining exactly WHAT the test is?

You believe sitting there with a loved one hooked up to multiple machines every test is for benefit of your loved one, to help them get better. NOT TRUE.

I know some parents just go along with whatever the doctors say, never question and that is their choice. But…there are some parents who do question and want to delay pulling the plug to give more time for the brain to heal. That number is growing and this MUST be addressed and changed.

Of course THIS will be a huge undertaking but we do serve a big God who is well able to do above all we could ask or think.

Jamie

Jamie, my sweet boy who was smart, talented, athletic with a tender heart towards animals and everyone. NOT one day goes by that I don’t think about you and miss you terribly.

But, I know I will see you soon.

Life on earth is a continuity, it begins in heaven when it ends on earth.

We will experience continuity between our current lives and our resurrected lives, with the same memories and relational histories.

I have included the video of Jamie’s Memorial, Celebration of Life Service.

The following essay was written by Julie Grimstad, president of the Healthcare Advocacy and Leadership Organization.

The “dead donor rule” – a person must be dead before their vital organs are extracted for transplantation – is the basic principle guiding organ donation. A dead body is a corpse. Excising vital organs from a corpse does no harm. But, if we are not certain the individual is dead, removing vital organs is a grave matter.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2296) states: “… it is not morally admissible directly to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons.” Furthermore, even though Pope John Paul II stated that organ donation is an act of charity, in Evangelium Vitae (n. 15) he cautioned: “Nor can we remain silent in the face of other more furtive, but no less serious and real forms of euthanasia. These could occur for example when, in order to increase the availability of organs for transplants, organs are removed without respecting objective and adequate criteria which verify the death of the donor.”

We have been asked, “How and why does HALO differ from the National Catholic Bioethics Center’s position on ‘brain death’ and the use of ‘brain dead’ individuals as organ donors?” This paper is HALO’s answer.

HALO’s position is that a diagnosis of brain death does not mean that it is morally (or scientifically) certain the person is dead. Therefore, the practice of removing vital organs from “brain dead” individuals should be suspended and alternative means for extending the lives of individuals with failing organs should be pursued.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center’s Position

The NCBC’s most well-known authority on brain death, Father Tad Pacholczyk, makes four assertions:

  • 1. “The [brain dead] individual has undergone a traumatic event resulting in the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain functions.”
  • 2. “Brain dead individuals cannot be kept going on machines forever. In fact, there is usually a period of only a few days that it may be possible to extend the functioning of their organs by keeping them on a ventilator.” He suggests that “somebody is likely to have cut some corners in carrying out the testing and diagnosis” in cases where individuals have survived for months or years after a brain death diagnosis.
  • 3. “Genuinely brain-dead individuals never ‘wake up.”
  • 4. “Defining brain death as the irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brainstem, is compatible with a Christian understanding of the true nature of man.” [1]

We do not disagree with Father Pacholczyk’s fourth assertion. However, after diligently searching for the answer to our question (this paper’s title), we have reached an uncomfortable conclusion: If physicians wait long enough to be certain that all functions of the entire brain have irreversibly ceased – that is, that the person is truly dead – the deceased person’s organs will have begun to deteriorate and therefore will not be transplantable. If the goal is to salvage healthy organs, haste is of the essence in determining brain death. Haste can lead to cutting corners and to errors. Also, as Pope John Paul II suggested, furtive euthanasia may occur as a means of increasing the supply of transplantable organs. (This is a reasonable concern since organ transplantation is a very lucrative business and “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil…” – 1 Timothy 6:10).

To address Father’s first assertion, it is necessary to ask a question. How is it possible to establish “the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain functions” when the person is exhibiting signs that some parts of the brain are functioning – signs which we can see with our own eyes?

Should We Believe Our Senses?

When our senses tell us someone is alive, but doctors tell us he is dead, what are we to believe? Two things which contradict each other cannot both be true. A human being is either alive or dead.

Before organ transplantation was possible, physicians made every effort to judge the moment of death in the direction of protecting life from a death-dealing mistake. Circulation and respiration had irreversibly ceased – the body was cold, blue and stiff. Our senses told us that the person was dead.

Brain death is declared while the patient has a beating heart because removal of vital organs must be done before they begin to deteriorate due to loss of circulation. We bury dead people, but we would never bury a person with a beating heart because we know that a beating heart is a sign of life. Also, consider these facts:

  • A person can be pronounced “brain dead” while he or she has a normal pulse, blood pressure, color and temperature. All signs of life.
  • “Brain dead” people digest food.
  • “Brain dead” children grow.
  • “Brain dead” pregnant women have gestated and delivered healthy babies and produced milk.
  • “Brain dead” patients’ wounds heal.
  • During the excision of organs, the donor is sometimes given paralyzing drugs to control muscle spasms; the heart rate increases, and blood pressure shoots up. Dead people don’t move or react to pain in these ways.

The legal definition of brain death is “the irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem.” Yet “brain dead” patients display signs that their brains retain many essential functions. [2]

Pursuing the Truth Wherever It Leads

If a person who has been determined to be brain dead is truly dead, then our senses are deceiving us.

There are good people who support vital organ donation after a determination of brain death and good people who oppose it. It is not HALO’s purpose to judge anyone who has decided to donate organs or to undergo transplant surgery. We do, however, strongly suggest that people consider all the evidence before making these decisions and prior to taking a position on this crucial moral issue.

Renowned theologian Christian Brugger believes there is reasonable doubt that “brain dead” bodies are dead and concludes, “Since we should not treat as corpses what for all we know might be living human beings, it follows that we have an obligation to treat BD individuals as if they were living human beings.”[3] Dr. Paul Byrne and other experts in the fields of medicine, philosophy, and theology explain why they maintain that “‘Brain Death’ is Not Death” in an illuminating essay by that name. [4] HALO highly recommends reading this brief, yet thorough set of arguments against using neurological criteria alone to determine death.

John Haas, President of the NCBC, says that those who express doubt or deny that brain death is true death “create confusion in the minds of a number of the faithful” and “run the risk of unsettling the consciences of the faithful on a life-and-death ethical matter for which the authentic magisterium of the Church has provided clear guidance.”[5] However, we find Church guidance on this matter to be anything but clear and interpretations of Church guidance vary widely. Brugger, Byrne, Pacholczyk, and Haas are just a few of the many Catholic experts who express differing positions on “brain death.” (Perhaps this is a topic for another paper.)

The evidence HALO has thus far examined leads us to agree with the experts who say we cannot be morally certain that a person who has been declared “brain dead” is truly dead before their organs are removed. But we will never cease our search for the truth. At the very least, those who believe brain death is death should concede that this is one diagnosis where doctors need to be correct 100% of the time – and, for the sake of all who trust them, admit that there is a growing body of evidence that this diagnosis is not accurate in at least some cases, and perhaps in many cases.

Father Pacholczyk asserts, “Genuinely brain-dead individuals never ‘wake up.'” Every time a recovery occurs after a determination of brain death we are told the diagnosis was wrong; that perhaps corners were cut in testing, or mistakes were made, or the person doing the testing was not qualified, etc. Thus, how can anyone know for certain that a person is “genuinely brain-dead?” The only way is to wait and see.

People who have been determined to be “brain dead” using the most rigorous neurological criteria have awakened and recovered. It is safe to say that they would not have recovered had they been stripped of their vital organs before their injured brains could begin to heal. Here are two cases in point.

  • Trenton McKinley, a 13-year old Alabama boy, was declared brain dead after suffering skull fractures and a traumatic brain injury in March 2018. He reportedly passed all the tests for determining brain death. His mother signed papers to donate his organs. Fortunately, he regained consciousness before his vital organs were removed. Trenton was taken off the ventilator and eventually went home. He is now conscious, walking and talking. [6]
  • In 2007, Zach Dunlap, a 21-year old Oklahoman, flipped over on his 4-wheeler and suffered catastrophic brain injuries. Thirty-six hours after his accident, doctors at United Regional Healthcare System in Wichita Falls, Texas determined he was “brain dead.” They had subjected Zach to a battery of tests including a scan that showed a complete absence of blood flow to the brain. Preparations to harvest his organs were underway when a relative scraped the bottom of his foot with a pocket knife and he jerked his foot away. Just months later, Zack was walking and talking. He recalled hearing a doctor say he was dead and being “mad inside” but unable to move. [7]
  • On December 9, 2013, 13-year old Jahi McMath underwent surgery to remove her tonsils and adenoids at a children’s hospital in Oakland, California. Shortly thereafter, she started to bleed and suffered cardiac arrest. She was declared “brain dead” three days later. Her family disagreed with the diagnosis and fought for Jahi’s life when the hospital sought to remove her life-support. Keeping her alive required moving her to New Jersey. 
  • Bobby Schindler, President of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network (https://www.lifeandhope.com/), explains: “After Jahi was ruled to be brain dead, she and her family found themselves in an incredible situation wherein Jahi was considered legally dead in California, but legally alive in New Jersey due to that state’s religious accommodations.” Jahi’s mother took excellent care of her at home. Jahi breathed with the aid of a ventilator. She responded appropriately to commands and underwent pubertal development. Her true death occurred on June 22, 2018. Her death certificate, completed by the NJ physician treating Jahi, listed her cause of death as bleeding as a result of liver failure.
  • Various news outlets subsequently reported that Jahi McMath had died, underscoring the fact that Jahi was a living human being for four and a half years after being issued a death certificate in California. [8] To learn more about Jahi’s condition read “The Case of Jahi McMath: A Neurologists’ View” by D. Alan Shewmon, The Hastings Center Report, December 25, 2018 (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hast.962).

Father Pacholczyk also maintains that “there is usually a period of only a few days that it may be possible to extend the functioning of [brain dead individuals’] organs by keeping them on a ventilator.” We point out that some people who have been diagnosed as brain dead have lived for years even though they have not made remarkable recoveries. For example,

Father Pacholczyk contends that such cases “indicate a failure to apply the tests and criteria for determination of brain death with proper attentiveness and rigor.” This explanation is not reassuring for people who have signed up to be organ donors, trusting that doctors don’t make erroneous declarations of death.

One final point. There are many different sets of diagnostic criteria that may be used to determine brain death. A person who would be declared brain dead in one hospital could be considered alive and receive potentially life-saving treatment in another hospital.

Even if you believe that brain death is true death, consider that you do not know where you might be hospitalized in the event you suffer a severe brain injury. What criteria will be used to determine brain death? Will the doctors who do the testing be qualified, careful, and honest? Will your organs be more important to them than your life?

“Should I Refuse to Be an Organ Donor?” Is a Prudent Question

Let us be clear. HALO does not reject vital organ donation by itself. We question the validity of brain death, particularly when “brain dead” individuals are slated to be organ donors or when a brain death determination is made not in order to be certain a patient is truly dead, but to justify stopping all life-sustaining treatment. Our position is compatible with the Church’s position. The Catholic Church is not opposed to organ transplantation but insists that persons must not be killed in order to procure their organs or for any other reason.

HALO cautions people: When in doubt, err on the side of life. We advise that you sign a wallet card refusing to be an organ donor [9] and carry it with you at all times, but the decision is up to you.

NOTES:

[1] Father Tad Pacholczyk, Director of Education, The National Catholic Bioethics Center, “Making Sense of Bioethics: Brain Dead Means Dead,” November 2005, www.ncbcenter.org.

[2] https://halorganization.com/pdf/HALO_Brain-Death-and-Organ-Donation.pdf

[3] E. Christian Brugger, “Are Brain Dead Individuals Dead? Grounds for Reasonable Doubt,”

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 41 (3):329-350 (2016).

[4] https://www.chninternational.com/brain_death_is_not_death_byrne_paul_md.html

[5] John M. Haas, “Catholic Teaching regarding the Legitimacy of Neurological Criteria for the Determination of Death,” The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Summer 2011.

[6] http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/the-miracle-boy-and-problems-with-the-brain-death-diagnosis

[7] Natalie Morales, “‘Dead’ Man Recovering after ATV Accident,” Datelinetranscript, NBC News, March 23, 2008.

[8] https://dolanlawfirm.com/2018/06/jahi-mcmath-has-died-in-new-jersey/

[9] https://newsletter.halorganization.com/2019/03/why-and-how-to-refuse-to-be-organ-donor.html

HALO also recommends reading “‘Brain death’ is a medical fiction invented to harvest organs from living people: expert” by Stephen Kokz, https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/brain-death-is-a-medical-fiction-invented-to-harvest-organs-from-living-people-expert

Contact: [email protected]

© Matt C. Abbott Column from Renew America. is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. He’s been interviewed on MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s ‘Unsolved’ podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.

Brain scans

5o Years

50 years ago, an ad hoc Harvard Medical School committee declared that patients in an “irreversible coma” were dead from a legal and ethical point of view. By irreversible coma, the committee had in mind “comatose individuals who have no discernible central nervous system activity”. In making this pronouncement, the committee was seeking to resolve a series of ethical and legal questions that had arisen since the advent of positive pressure ventilation and research into vital organ procurement.

The criterion was rapidly enshrined in law around the US and, indeed, the globe, and it became the most common standard by which vital organ procurement and the withdrawal of treatment were regulated.

Yet 50 years on, the brain death criterion for death is under intense criticism, with several high profile legal cases in the US calling into question the claim that brain dead patients are really dead.

Doctor’s Question

In two recent JAMA articles (one co-authored with lawyer Thaddeus Pope and psychiatrist David S. Jones), Harvard Medical School’s Robert Truog evaluates the brain death criterion, arguing that, while the rationale behind the brain death criterion is defensible, it nevertheless lacks philosophical justification.

Truog states that the brain death criterion was intended to provide a clear biological criterion in which we could ground our legal definition death. The law needs black and white distinctions, and brain death provides one such distinction:

The law necessarily depends on bright-line determinations to standardize many important societal distinctions, such as when a person becomes an adult, when a person is blind, and when a person is dead…By drawing a bright line at the level of permanent unconsciousness and ventilator dependence, the [Uniform Determination of Death Act]* has defined when a person should be considered dead, making it permissible for the person to be an organ donor if they wish and making it permissible for the health care system to refuse to continue to provide the patient with life support.

Yet Truog also observes that “attempts to find a conceptual justification for linking this diagnosis (i.e., brain death) to the death of the patient remain incomplete”. He recounts how neurologist Alan Shewmon has shown that virtually every function undertaken by a healthy living body can be carried by a brain dead person on a ventilator. He also questions the 2008 attempt by the President’s Council for Bioethics to define death in terms of the absence of the “fundamental vital work of a living organism”. While xenotransplantation and 3D printing may one day provide a solution to organ shortages, the brain death criterion will remain for some time a source of spirited debate.

*The Uniform Determination of Death Act is a 1981 act adopted by most US states according to which “An individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead”.

Link to original story.

On a personal note: The brain scan above was what caught my attention because Jamie’s had blood flow and the radiologist said, “there is blood flow”.  Vanderbilt said, “oh, we expected to find some blood flow”.

Then why didn’t they give him more time? Will I ever get over this? 

BioEdge Creative Commons

Taquisha McKitty

October 6, 2017 — Leave a comment

Taquisha McKitty

Taquisha McKittyTaquisha McKitty was admitted into the Brampton Civic Hospital, Ontario, Canada on September 14, 2017 having suffered a drug overdose.  While although Taquisha was breathing on her own and moving in response to her family, Taquisha was recognized as a registered organ donor and medical treatment to protect and preserve her life were circumvented.  

Two apnea tests were performed, she was declared “brain dead” by two physicians in accordance to Ontario law and to this effect, a death certificate was issued September 20, 2017.  Her family hopes to have Taquisha’s death certificate canceled in pursuit of medical therapy her wellbeing, to protect and preserve her life, not that of another(s) as an organ donor.

A Brampton judge issued a two-week injunction to keep a woman declared brain dead on September 20 on life support.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Lucille Shaw ruled that Dr. Andrew Baker, chief of critical care at St. Michael’s Hospital would run further tests.

“If you are there with her and you touch her and you grab her feet, she will pull her feet from you. If you tickle her she will move her feet. In one instance one of her cousins was squeezing her hand and asked her to show her thumb and she moved her thumb,” McKitty’s father Stanley Stewart told CP24 on Thursday night. “We know for a fact that she is alive because if she was dead and her brain was dead there is no way that a week-and-a-half later she would still be moving. If you are brain dead then no parts should be moving.”

Dr. Paul Byrne

“What’s going on here is the young lady is living,” Dr. Paul A. Byrne, a retired neonatologist, past president of the Catholic Medical Association is retained by the family to speak on their behalf, told CP24 on Thursday.

“A declaration by a doctor does not make someone dead. There is clearly a difference between being alive and being dead and she is alive. Her heart beats, she has circulation, she moves her legs and she responds to the family.”

Byrne told CP24 that he believes doctors are rushing to declare Taquisha  McKitty brain dead so that her organs can be donated. If he is granted expert status, he will be able to advise a physician licensed in Ontario to provide McKitty with treatment.

Dr. Byrne said that all the family wants is for their loved one to be given “proper treatment.” he said it is his belief that Taquisha McKitty could still recover.

“Patients like this, if they treat them with thyroid hormones and other things, they have a chance to continue to live,” he said.

*** Please if you’re ever in this situation don’t do the Apnea test, I have written on it so much and it only makes things worse, even in the doctors call it the “gold standard.” 

Brain death is NOT true death. It is a legal term created by doctors to get your organs. When organs are removed from a “brain dead” donor, all the vital signs of the “donors” are still present prior to the harvesting of organs, such as normal body temperature and blood pressure; the heart is beating; vital organs, like the liver and kidneys, are functioning; and the donor is breathing with the help of a ventilator.

In medicine, we protect, preserve, and prolong life and postpone death. Our goal is to keep body and soul united. When a vital organ ceases to function, death can result. On the other hand, medical intervention can sometimes restore the function of the damaged organ, or medical devices (such as pacemakers and heart-lung machines) can preserve life. The observation of a cessation of functioning of the brain or some other organ of the body does not in itself indicate destruction of even that organ, much less death of the person. Dr. Paul Byrne

All of us who know the truth of the fallacy of brain death must pray and be there to help her. Watch the short video with Dr. Byrne and her dad and pastor.

Israel StinsonIsrael Stinson was abruptly taken off life support to the devastation of his parents, Fronseca and Nathaniel Stinson.

Perhaps you haven’t followed this story but I have and I am just as horrified as his family is.

You see the long and short of it is the hospital declared Israel “brain dead.” After many court battles Israel’s family moved him to a hospital in Guatemala, where they began to feed Israel and give the family hope.

According to Alexandra Snyder, the families attorney, three Guatemalan doctors, including a neurologist, declared that the boy was NOT brain dead after all.

That diagnosis was based in part on EEG, (electroencephalogram), or other tests used to measure electrical activity in the brain, she said.

Snyder, the families attorney declined to name the Guatemalan doctors or their hospital but dismissed the idea that their opinion weighed less than that of American doctors.

“We’re not talking voodoo here,” she told The Post. “They have access to the same equipment as American doctors. Many of them probably have degrees from American medical schools.”

From Guatemala, the family posted more videos in which they said Israel was improving. After 3 months in Guatemala, Israel was accepted as a patient in Children’s Hospital in LA. HOWEVER, within days the hospital once again went to court to remove the ventilator from Israel.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge removed the restraining order, saying the case had already been decided at state and federal level before the family traveled to Guatemala.

And with that, doctors turned off Israel’s ventilator.

Can you imagine?

  1. Your child pronounced brain dead.
  2. Leave county and improves.
  3. EEG’s and several doctors say your child is NOT brain dead.
  4. LA Children’s Hospital accepts you child back.
  5. You come back ONLY to have the doctor’s go to court and take your child off the ventilator?

I’m sorry but there is something really wrong here. It is the duty of parents to PROTECT their children. 

Please read more details here and here but most of all pray for this grieving family.

“What I really don’t understand is why this hospital agreed to take this little boy in the first place,” she told The Post, saying the boy’s parents never would have brought Israel back to the United States if they had known the hospital was going to pull the plug. “They knew exactly what his condition was, what his treatment was, and they agreed to take him. But it appears they only accepted him as a patient to put him to death. …

Yes, that IS the question, isn’t it?

WHY?