Organ Donation

On the 22nd October the Dutch Government launched a new campaign to encourage all Dutch people to register themselves as organ donor. The project however suffered a bad start as a recent high profile case in Denmark made organ donation subject of a controversial discussion in that country.

What are the facts:
A young 19-year-old woman fell into a deep coma after a car accident. A doctor asked the parents’ permission to remove the organs. According to him there was not the slightest hope of a ‘small wonder’. If she would wake up, the woman certainly would stay in a vegetative state for the rest of her life, he argued.

But what happened? When they disconnected her from the respiratory ventilation machine the young woman didn’t die: 24 hours later she woke up. Since that moment a year has passed, and she is now able to walk, talk and even ride a horse. She does have problems with her short term memory, which problems however may not have occurred if the doctors would have treated her longer.

This remarkable story was filmed and broadcasted by Danish public television. It evoked a tremendous lot of reactions in Denmark. People who had registered themselves as donor, signed out. The Minister for Healthcare announced plans to strengthen the rules: the procedure to take away the organs may only begin once brain death is diagnosed. Physicians of course protested against such change, because in their opinion they would lose precious time.

In the Netherlands, the government urges people to register as a donor. They don’t hesitate to use popular commercials to convince people to join the Organ Donor Register. These commercials usually are an emotional appeal to people trying to make them believe that they are selfish if they don’t want to donate their organs after their death.

Though not easy to find, there are different opinions available. A recent article in the leading Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, with the meaningful title: “Man is not a box from which you may pick what you need”, mentions some good arguments against organ donation. [De Volkskrant, October 22, 2012]

Similar to those based on the principles of the Theosophia, which we have used for decades in our communications about the subject.

Brain Death

The case in Denmark is not unique. One may wonder how many men and women would still be alive, if doctors had not taken out their organs prematurely. Of course there is the protocol in which it is described that organs may only be taken out when somebody is brain dead.  But brain death is a rather vague term and difficult to apply for diagnosis. Before the first organ transplantations took place, the word didn’t even exist. It was invented by physicians from Harvard University to make organ transplantations acceptable for the public. It would have been unacceptable when the public would think that organs from dying – i.e. still living – humans are transplanted. By introducing the term “Brain Dead” it would seem to the public they are already dead. And if you wait until the heart stops beating, you don’t have enough time to remove the organs.

Brain death is defined as the irreversible cessation of all brain activity. However, there are cases describing the factual story of people who came back to life, although they were diagnosed as brain dead. In fact you can’t say that they ‘came back to life’, because they never died. That brain death is irreversible is therefore not true.

Brain death suggests that the brain died, but apparently that’s not the case. There are people of the medical profession who refer to a brain dead person as a “mechanical ventilated corpse”. There is a case of a pregnant so called brain dead woman of whom the baby in her womb kept growing. The baby eventually was born after a Caesarean-operation. In short, organs are sometimes taken away while the donor is not dead yet. It would be fair when the authorities and the organ donation lobby publishes these facts as well..

Objections against organ donation

The quintessential problem of organ donation is rooted in our view on life and death. If you think that life is the product of matter, you will be inclined to look at your body as a kind of machine that, like an old car on the junkyard, may be used to supply spare parts to other machines. But if you see a body as a living instrument that is used by a human being – call it the soul or the consciousness if you like – it is the living expression of that inner man.

In several articles published in our magazine Lucifer – the Messenger of Light we have provided a large number of arguments against organ donation. These can be summarized as follows:

Objections for the donor

Objections for the receiver

Theosophy does not prescribe any strict rules of conduct. Each person should choose what he thinks is the best in accordance with his own conscience. But we strongly believe that in the case of organ donation the information provided by the government and its institutions is largely incomplete and utterly subjective. Who is able to make the right decision on an issue that is so very important from an ethical perspective as Organ Donation, when not all the information is available?

Posted by blavatskyhouse on 26/10/12 at 11:52 AM in Magazine
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