Recently, several articles in the scholarly literature on medical ethics proclaim the need for “responsible scholarship” in the debate over the proper criteria for death, in which “responsible scholarship” is defined in terms of support for current neurological criteria for death. In a recent article, James M. DuBois is concerned that academic critiques of current death criteria create unnecessary doubt about the moral acceptability of organ donation, which may affect the public’s willingness to donate. Thus he calls for a closing (...) of the debate on current death criteria and for journal editors to publish only critiques that “substantially engage and advance the debate.” We argue that such positions as DuBois’ are a threat to responsible scholarship in medical ethics, especially scholarship that opposes popular stances, because it erodes academic freedom and the necessity of debate on an issue that is literally a matter of life and death, no matter what side a person defends. (shrink)
Since the introduction of the concept of brain death by the Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School to Examine the Definition of Brain Death in 1968, the validity of this concept has been challenged by medical scientists, as well as by legal, philosophical, and religious scholars. In light of increased criticism of the concept of brain death, Stephen Napier, a staff ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, set out to prove that the whole-brain death criterion serves as (...) good evidence for death in the Catholic bioethical framework, on the grounds that when whole-brain death has occurred the soul has already departed from the body. Opponents have argued that (1) brain death does not disrupt the somatic integrative unity and coordinated biological functioning of a living organism and (2) clinical tests outlined in the practice guidelines for determining brain death lack sufficient power to exclude persisting function and fail to detect elements of the brain that, although currently functionless, may retain potential for recovery under conditions of optimal medical care. It is therefore possible that heart-beating organ procurement from patients with impaired consciousness is de facto a concealed practice of active euthanasia and physician-assisted death, both of which, either concealed or overt, the Catholic Church opposes. (shrink)
The current practice of organ transplantation has been criticized on several fronts. The philosophical and scientific foundations for brain death criteria have been crumbling. In addition, donation after cardiac death, or non-heartbeating-organ donation (NHBD) has been attacked on grounds that it mistreats the dying patient and uses that patient only as a means to an end for someone else's benefit.
Alan Shewmons article, The brain and somatic integration: Insights into the standard biological rationale for equating brain death with death (2001), strikes at the heart of the standard justification for whole brain death criteria. The standard justification, which I call the standard paradigm, holds that the permanent loss of the functions of the entire brain marks the end of the integrative unity of the body. In my response to Shewmons article, I first offer a brief summary of the standard paradigm (...) and cite recent work by advocates of whole brain criteria who tenaciously cling to the standard paradigm despite increasing evidence showing that it has significant weaknesses. Second, I address Shewmons case against the standard paradigm, arguing that he is successful in showing that whole brain dead patients have integrated organic unity. Finally, I discuss some minor problems with Shewmons article, along with suggestions for further elaboration. (shrink)
Based on themes in Aquinas, this paper adds to the defense of the doctrine of an eternal hell, focusing on the state of those in hell after the resurrection. I first summarize the Thomistic doctrine of the human person as a body-soul unity, showing why existence as a separated soul is truncated and unnatural. Next, I discuss the soul-body reunion at the resurrection, which restores an essential aspect of human nature, even for the damned. This reveals the love of God (...) since He gives the damned the best human existence they can possibly have given their disordered wills. Finally, I defend this position against three important objections. (shrink)