EWTN Catholic Q&A
Brain Death
Question from Therese on 01-28-2014:

It seems like some members of the Catholic Church have jumped on the "brain death" bandwagon and adopted it as a definition of TRUE DEATH. Has the Church ever proclaimed WHERE the seat of the soul is? Is it all tied up in the brain? Isn't a person TRULY dead when he/she is DEAD? (ie., when the brain, respiratory and circulatory system AT MINIMUM are shutting down)? I have heard bioethics experts state on EWTN that it's OK to discontinue treatment when an accurate diagnosis of brain death has been made. Why are they in such a hurry to pronounce someone dead just because they are unresponsive? Even with MRI advances in determining if the brain has in effect "died", is that unequivocal proof that the soul has left the body? Do they know that the term "brain death" was created for the purpose of organ harvesting and experimentation? Thank you for clarifying a very troubling and confusing topic!!

Answer by Judie Brown on 02-01-2014:

Dear Therese

Your assessment is the right one. If had to confront one of these so-called bioethicists, here is what I would say ...

As hard as it might be for you to consider, as Aquinas taught, the soul itself animates the matter (the body) and without it the body ceases to live. Therefore the soul is one with the body and is seated within the very fiber of the living human being.

But from a clinical perspective this is not why many of us oppose brain death. Brain death is a useful tool of the organ transplant industry and a convenient way of suggesting that someone who is seriously brain impaired is in fact already dead when indeed such a person is not dead.

To make my point, please read this incredible story about one family and their "brain dead" child you see why a diagnosis of brain death is erroneous.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/01/27/family-fought-to-give-full-life- to-son-in-vegetative-state-for-31-years/?intcmp=obinsite

Therese, keep on fighting then good fight.

God bless you.