The Killing-For-Organs Pushers

Wesley J. Smith
3:26 PM (2 hours ago)

to Wesley killing-for-organs pushers

By Wesley J. Smith <>

If you want to see where our culture may next go off the rails, read
professional journals. There, in often eye-crossing and passive arcane prose
of the medical intelligentsia, you will discover an astonishing level of
antipathy to the sanctity of human life – to the point now that some
advocate killing the profoundly disabled for their organs.

Case in point: “What Makes Killing Wrong?” an article
published in the January 19, 2012 edition of the Journal of Medical Ethics.
The authors argue that death and total disability are morally
indistinguishable, and therefore harvesting organs from living disabled
patients is not morally wrong. Bioethicists Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, of
Duke University, and Franklin G. Miller, from the National Institutes of
Health’s Department of Bioethics (which should really get the alarm bells
ringing!) arrive at their shocking (for most of us) conclusion by claiming
that murdering the hypothetical “Betty” isn’t wrong because it kills her,
but rather, because it “makes her unable to do anything, including walking,
talking, and even thinking and feeling.”

How do they get from deconstructing the definition of death to harvesting
the disabled? First, they change the scenario so that Betty is not killed
but severely brain damaged to the point that she is “totally disabled.”
But their definition of that term encompasses hundreds of thousands of
living Americans who are our mothers, fathers, children, aunts and siblings,
uncles, friends and cousins – people with profound disabilities like that
experienced by Terri Schiavo and my late Uncle Bruno as he lived through the
late stages of his Alzheimer’s disease:

Betty has mental states, at least intermittently and temporarily, so she is
not dead by any standard or plausible criterion. Still, she is universally
disabled because she has no control over anything that goes on in her body
or mind.

Since Betty “is no worse off being dead than totally disabled,” they
opine, it is no worse “to kill Betty than to totally disable her.” Not
only that, but according to the authors, “there is nothing bad about death
or killing other than disability or disabling,” and since she is already so
debilitated, then nothing wrong is done by harvesting her organs and thus
ending her biological existence. And thus, in the space of not quite five
pages, killing the innocent ceases to be wrong and the intrinsic dignity of
human life is thrown out the window, transforming vulnerable human beings
into objectified and exploitable human resources.

Alas, Sinnott-Armstrong and Miller are not on the fringe. And while they
certainly don’t represent the unanimous view, they can hardly be called
radical – at least by the standards of the medical/bioethical
intelligentsia. Indeed, for more than a decade articles have been published
in the world’s most notable medical and bioethics journals arguing in favor
of killing profoundly disabled patients for their organs. Here is just a

● Bioethics: “If a patient opts for VAE [voluntary active euthanasia] in a
society that permits it, and then chooses termination via RVO [removing
vital organs], it seems clear that no more harm is done to others than if he
were terminated by any other means.”

● Journal of Medical Ethics: “In the longer run, the medical profession
and society … should be prepared to accept the reality and justifiability
of life terminating acts in medicine in the context of stopping life
sustaining treatment and performing vital organ transplantation.”

● Nature: “Few things are as sensitive as death. But concerns about the
legal details of declaring death in someone who will never again be the
person he or she was should be weighed against the value of giving a full
and healthy life to someone who will die without a transplant.”

● New England Journal of Medicine: “Whether death occurs as the result of
ventilator withdrawal or organ procurement, the ethically relevant
precondition is valid consent by the patient or surrogate. With such
consent, there is no harm or wrong done in retrieving vital organs before
death, provided that anesthesia is administered.”

● The Lancet: “If the legal definition of death were to be changed to
include comprehensive irreversible loss of higher brain function, it would
be possible to take the life of a patient (or more accurately stop the heart
since the patient would be defined as dead) by a lethal injection and then
to remove the organs for transplantation …”

● Critical Care Medicine: “We propose that individuals who desire to
donate their organs and who are either neurologically devastated or
imminently dying should be able to donate their organs without first being
declared dead.” <>

It is important to note here that transplant medicine remains an ethical
enterprise and that doctors are not yet doing the deed. But if we want to
keep it that way, it is important that these proposals not be allowed to

Here’s the good news. Sunlight is the great disinfectant. Most people will
oppose killing for organs. Thus, the best way to prevent this dark agenda
from ever becoming the legal public policy is to expose it in popular media
every time it is proposed.

Wesley J. Smith, an attorney and author, is a senior fellow at the Discovery
Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism

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I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas