Our Duty not to “Donate” or Accept Donated Vital Bodily Organs

Catholic Candle note: Recently, Catholic Candle examined the permission the Church traditionally gives to a person who is in danger of death, to confess to a priest whom an uncompromising Catholic could not otherwise support (or confess to) because that priest is a compromiser, an apostate, or someone whom it is otherwise impermissible to support.  Find the article here: https://catholiccandle.org/2020/01/01/using-a-compromised-priest-when-dying/

Catholic Candle also addressed how uncompromising laymen can bury their dead in these times of great apostasy when an uncompromising priest is not available.  Find the article here: https://catholiccandle.org/2020/04/02/a-traditional-catholic-funeral-and-burial-when-there-is-no-uncompromising-priest-available/

Between this last confession (discussed in the first of those articles) and the burial (discussed in the second article), is the crucial moment of death.  We gave recommendations how to assist at a person’s death, based on the experience of some of the Catholic Candle Team, who recently assisted at the deaths of two uncompromising Traditional Catholics.  Find the article here: https://catholiccandle.org/2020/06/01/how-to-assist-a-person-in-dying-a-holy-death/

Also, in our last days of life, we must continue to give sufficient care to sustain our life – even as it is waning – and must not yield to the culture of death, which promotes euthanasia.  Therefore, we examined the minimum care we are obliged to provide to sustain our life even when we are dying.  Find the article here: https://catholiccandle.org/2020/07/01/use-of-ordinary-care-even-as-we-are-dying/

Again, because we live in a culture of death, part of our using sufficient care to sustain our life – even as it is waning – we must never acquiesce in being murdered by having our vital organs removed to be “donated” to another person.  Further, we must never accept the “donation” of a vital organ from someone else, as we would then become complicit in his murder.  Below, we examine the evil of such murder by the “donation” of a vital organ.

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What is death?

Death is the separation of body and soul.[1]  Death occurs at an instant.  In other words, death is not something that occurs gradually over a period of time, although the subsequent corruption of the body does occur gradually. 

A dying person is a person who is still alive.  A deeply comatose person is still alive; (a corpse cannot be comatose).

Although we know that death is the separation of body and soul, we usually do not know exactly when this separation (viz., death) occurs.  We usually can only know with certitude afterwards, that a person has already died.


Corruption of the body – gangrene contrasted to a person’s death

Our soul is what makes our body to be what it is, viz., a human body.  Without our soul, our body becomes merely a decaying lump of organic matter which is on its way to becoming dirt, dust or ashes.[2] 

It can happen that the soul ceases to be present in a bodily part of a person who is still alive.  In other words, that part of a person’s body is no longer vivified by his soul.  This can happen, e.g., in the limb of a diabetic person who is still very much alive.  When the soul ceases to vivify part of the body, that part of the body dies and rots.  This is called “gangrene”.[3] 

If some parts, e.g., the person’s feet, are dead and begin rotting (i.e., have gangrene), but other parts, e.g., his heart and other internal organs, remain uncorrupted, this lack of corruption is a sign that the person is not yet dead – because those internal organs do not yet exhibit the corruption which would tell us that his soul is no longer vivifying any parts of his body (i.e., preserving them from corruption). 

Just as gangrene shows a part of a body is no longer vivified by the soul, likewise general corruption throughout the whole body shows the entire body is no longer vivified by the soul.  This tells us that the person is certainly dead.[4]

Although the Catholic Church uses the safer and more reasonable standard requiring general corruption of the body as a condition for certainty that a person is really dead, people sometimes use the “cold, blue, and stiff” standard to determine death.

This “cold, blue, and stiff” standard for determining death could leave room for different interpretations in some circumstances, e.g., how cold is the body and for how long?  Where, and in how many places, is the body’s temperature measured?  Moreover, particular circumstances can add uncertainty of whether a person is really dead, e.g., when a cold, non-responsive swimmer is pulled out of cold water.


What are “vital organs”?

A “vital organ” is an organ (i.e., a part of the body) the loss of which results in death.  If a person consents to the removal of one of his vital organs while he is alive, he would be consenting to his own death.

Even if a person were unavoidably near to death, he still must not consent to having his life shortened by having a bodily organ removed which brings about his death.  This is like the fact that a person’s nearness to death does not permit him to jump off of a cliff or do anything else which would cause his death to come sooner.

Therefore, because a person must not consent to his own murder, a person cannot agree to “donate” one of his vital organs (such as his heart) until his body (including his heart) has begun corrupting (showing us that he has truly, already died).  Once he has truly died and his body has begun a general corruption, then his body can be donated to help others, e.g., in medical research.


The multi-billion-dollar industry of transplanting vital human organs

In 1967, a cardiac surgeon, Christiaan Bernard, performed the first human-to-human heart surgery.[5]  This landmark surgery opened up whole new possibilities for patients, but such organ transplant surgeries obviously require a supply of “donated” hearts and/or other vital organs.

Today, the transplantation of vital organs is a many-billion-dollar industry.[6]


The organ transplant industry gets vital organs by murdering living people who are labeled as dead.

Although the organ “donor” and his family cannot receive any payment, there are many billions of dollars made collectively, by many persons and organizations involved in this industry, e.g., the hospitals, the pharmaceutical companies, and the surgeons.[7]

The organ transplant industry’s problem is a shortage of high-quality human organs.[8]  If the “donor’s” organs are not cut out of his body until after he is really dead and has begun corrupting, then his organs are worthless for transplantation into another person.  Even under the alternate standard for determining death – the “cold, blue, and stiff” standard – all vital organs are useless for transplanting into another human.[9]

Thus, the organ transplant industry saw that it needed to remove the “donor’s” vital organs while he was still alive.  But the transplant industry needed to label him as dead and pretend he was dead so that surgeons would be legally permitted to extract the organs and also in order that the public would accept this practice.[10]

The result was a legal and medical fiction[11] beginning with a Harvard Medical School proposal in 1968.  Under this proposal a person who is in a so-called “irreversible coma” would be relabeled as “brain dead” and then the medical establishment would pretend this so-called “brain death” was the person’s real death.[12] 

Obviously, when a person is in a supposed “irreversible coma”, he is still alive.  No cadaver could ever be in an “irreversible coma”.

Those “brain dead” persons are often euphemistically called “beating heart cadavers”, tacitly showing that everyone knows those “brain dead” persons are really alive.[13] 

The authors of the New England Journal of Medicine article quoted and cited above, promotes organ “donations” from so-called “brain dead” persons.  The authors do not dispute that “brain death” is not real death.  However, they advocate that the medical profession should stop pretending that the “brain dead” person who is “donating” his organs is not being killed by having his vital organs “harvested”.[14]


The evidence shows conclusively that “brain death” is not real death

Whereas a body’s general corruption tells us that the person has died, likewise while a body’s vital functions continue, they tell us that the person is alive.  This is true even if the person receives assistance from medical machines, such as a respirator.  Here is how Pope Pius XII taught this truth:

Human life continues for as long as its vital functions – distinguished from the simple life of organs – manifest themselves spontaneously or even with the help of artificial processes.[15]

So-called “brain dead” persons are really helpless living persons whose vital organs are “harvested” by murdering them.  These persons are often warm and pink, with a normal pulse and blood pressure.[16]

The bodies of so-called “brain dead” persons are able to heal wounds, fight infections, respond to stimuli, and retain their spinal reflexes.[17]  A “brain dead” person can survive for months on life support equipment.[18]

When a “brain dead” person is cut open to extract one of his vital organs, he moves in reaction to the pain, unless he is paralyzed by drugs”.[19]  Obviously, such a “donor” is not really dead because a corpse does not need anesthesia or react to pain.  When a “brain dead” person is cut open, his pulse rate and blood pressure rise[20] just as any other person during surgery.[21]

A so-called “brain dead” expectant mother can be kept alive for months, for the sake of her baby.[22]


There have been many examples of so-called “irreversible comas” being reversed

Because of advancements in medical treatments since 1968, there have been very many persons whose supposedly “irreversible coma” was reversed and the person made a full or substantial recovery to an independent life.

For example:

  Trenton McKinley, a 13-year old Alabama boy, was declared brain dead after suffering skull fractures and a traumatic brain injury in March 2018.  All the usual tests showed he was “brain dead”.  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.[23]

  In 2007, Zach Dunlap, a 21-year-old Oklahoma man, flipped over on his 4-wheeler and suffered catastrophic brain injuries.  A day and a half 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.[24]

  Kate Allat suffered a stroke at the age of 39 and spent the next ten days in a coma.  Allat later revealed that she heard everything going on around her in her hospital room and she was fearful her life support would be turned off.  Her mind was functioning normally during her coma but everyone around her thought she was “brain dead” as she laid in her hospital bed paralyzed and unable to speak or breathe on her own.  She listened in fright as medical staff discussed switching off her life support with her family.  …  “They thought I was in a vegetative state.  I couldn’t move a muscle.  There was no signal I was in there,” she said.  “I was on life support and they might have turned it off.”  “I couldn’t breathe for myself but I could hear conversations that I didn’t want to hear.”  Kate made a full recovery.[25]

  Steven Thorpe suffered devastating injuries in a car crash.  His parents were told there was no chance of their son surviving.  But they refused to give up hope – despite four specialists declaring that the 17-year-old was “brain dead”.  Steven’s parents were convinced they saw a “flicker” of life as Steven lay in a coma.  They refused to allow the hospital to switch off his life support machine.  Two weeks later, Steven woke from his coma. Within seven weeks, he had left the hospital.  And four years later, Steven was working as a trainee accounts clerk.[26]

It might surprise readers that so-called “brain death” does not even require confirmation that the person has no measurable brain activity.  Some co-called “brain dead” persons can continue to have brain activity[27] (as well as many other bodily functions which prove they are still alive). 

Furthermore, a “brain dead” person’s brain can “fall silent” in response to a decreased blood flow, even if his brain remains uninjured.  This is called “ischemic penumbra”.[28]


Summary of “brain death” and deep coma

It is obvious that a “brain dead” or comatose person is alive.  Would anyone ever bury a person showing so many signs of life?  No!  Because he is alive!  Yet, he is labeled as “brain dead” and so he can be considered fit to be murdered by “harvesting” his vital organs.


Some countries have “laws”[29] which automatically designate everyone in the public as a “donor” of his vital organs unless he opts out.

In the transplant industry’s tireless pursuit of vital organs, some countries take advantage of most people’s inattention and inaction by passing “laws” which declare everyone as a consenting “donor” of his vital organs unless he opts-out of the country’s organ harvesting program.

For example, in 2020, England passed a “law” presuming people consent to “donate” their vital organs when they become “brain dead”, unless they register on a government website to opt out of being thus murdered.[30]

Other countries which have opt out “laws” are Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Spain, Austria, and Belgium.[31]  The state of California now has an opt out “law” too.[32]

Obviously, the Catholic Faith, the Natural Law, and sound thinking require a person to opt out of this type of murderous organ “donation” program.


Pressure and false compassion

Vital organ transplantation should be recognized for what it is – murder – and should be a felony.  But today, it is common for people to be pressured into agreeing ahead of time to “donate” their vital organs, often in the name of “charity” and “compassion”.  This pressure often occurs when they renew their driver’s license.

People are told that “donating” their vital organs is unselfish.  They are told that “your heart will continue living in someone else”, etc.  Ironically, people are told that donating their heart – which murders them – is “lifesaving and lifegiving”.[33]

Even if many people act in ignorance or with misplaced “charity” when they agree to “donate” their vital organs, they are nonetheless agreeing to be murdered.  But such organ “donation” is not real charity any more than it is charitable to commit suicide for ecological reasons such as to “reduce greenhouse gases” to “save the planet”.

Therefore, it is plain we must not agree to the “donation” of our vital organs.  But even if a person does not explicitly consent ahead of time, a person could still be murdered for his organs in the future, as he lies helpless and defenseless in a coma.

Therefore, no one should remain silent on this issue.  Everyone should explicitly reject the “donation” of his vital organs and reject receiving another person’s vital organs, using a declaration such as this:

I reject any treatment that uses an organ or tissue of another person obtained in a manner that causes, contributes to, or hastens that person’s death.  I reject any treatment that uses a vital organ “donated” by any other person who is declared “dead” (usually this declaration of “death” is made shortly before the organ is removed).  I also reject any treatments that use an organ or tissue of an unborn or newborn child who has been subject to an induced abortion.  I do not want any of my organs to be donated.[34]


Donating non-vital organs

Although it is a mortal sin to consent to murder by “donation” of a vital organ, it is a good and generous work for us to donate even an important bodily organ which does not cause our death.  For example, we can donate one of our two kidneys, a lobe of our liver, or a lobe of a lung, part of our pancreas, a cornea, or bone marrow, none of which impede our continued life.  These donations are a charitable work for those in need.


Beware of cooperating in any way in murder to “harvest” vital organs!

Not only must we never consent to murder by “donating” or receiving a vital organ, we must also never cooperate in any other way, when people commit this evil.  A person can be responsible for another person’s murder through organ “donation” in nine separate ways,[35] including by remaining silent (when we should object), by expressing approval, or by advising a person to “donate” his vital organ (or to receive the transplant of a vital organ). 


Society has sunk into the murderous practices of the pagan Aztecs

We see that, in a way, our society has sunk back to the evils of pagan times, murdering people to obtain their beating hearts (or hearts still able to beat).  Here is what the Spanish encountered when they first went to Aztec Mexico:

In 1519, at the time when Spanish Captain Hernán Cortez, came to Mexico, the barbaric, pagan Aztec Indians offered human sacrifices almost daily.  The Aztecs, who ruled from Mexico City, offered about 20,000 human sacrifices every year to their pagan (false) gods.  That is an average of more than 50 each day!  These victims usually had their hearts cut out while still beating; then their bodies were dismembered.  The Aztecs sometimes ate body parts.  At the Aztecs’ inauguration of their pagan temple at Mexico City, they massacred about 20,000 victims in four days.  That averages about one such gruesome murder every 17 seconds, all day and night![36]

Whereas the Aztecs offered their human sacrifices to their false gods, modern man offers similar human sacrifices to a creature lower than a “god”, viz., to a fellow man.  The modern “harvesting” of vital organs is, as it were, merely Aztec human sacrifices committed under surgical draping and using sterile technique.



“Harvesting” a person’s vital organs is premeditated murder.  Your organ donor card might be your death warrant. 

Catholics should never give permission to “donate” their vital organs and should not allow this authorization to be indicated on their driver’s license.  Such permission would be to consent to their own murder. 

Likewise, Catholics should be careful to opt out of organ “donation” in those countries such as England, where permission to “donate” organs is assumed unless a person opts out.

[1]           Here is how Fr. Spirago explains this truth, in The Catechism Explained:


At death, the soul is separated from the body ….  The body, deprived of the soul, is no longer alive, because it has no longer the principle of life ….


The Catechism Explained, Rev. Francis Spirago, Benziger Bros., New York, 1921, Eleventh and Twelfth Articles of the Creed, The Last Things, §1, p.254.


[2]           We owe respect to the human body as a temple of the Holy Ghost.  This means that it is a mortal sin to cremate the body (except in very unusual circumstance, such as where this is necessary in order to protect the living from a deadly, widespread plague).  For a further analysis of the evils of cremation, read these articles:


v  https://catholiccandle.neocities.org/faith/cremation-is-barbaric.html


v  https://catholiccandle.neocities.org/faith/may-poor-people-choose-cremation-instead-of-burial-because-they-cannot-afford-burial.html


Although the human body deserves a respectful burial, this does not mean that, in itself, a dead body is other than organic matter returning to dust.  On Ash Wednesday, the Church reminds us what happens to a person’s body when his soul departs: “Remember Man, that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.”


[3]           Here is how the Mayo Clinic explains this truth:


Gangrene refers to the death of body tissue due to either a lack of blood flow or a serious bacterial infection. Gangrene commonly affects the extremities, including your toes, fingers and limbs, but it can also occur in your muscles and internal organs. 



[4]           Here is how Fr. Henry Davis explains this truth, in Moral and Pastoral Theology:


Now we know as a fact that life often persists after apparent death; advanced decomposition is the only certain sign of death especially after drowning, paralysis and death from sickness.


Moral and Pastoral Theology, Henry Davis, S.J., Sheed and Ward, New York, ©1959, Vol 2, Ch. 6, Section: The Fifth Commandment, Appendix 2, Point 16, Embalming, p.168 (emphasis added).

[9]           Here is how this truth is stated in one article published in the New England Journal of Medicine:


[It used to be that] the diagnosis of death was relatively straightforward: patients were dead when they were cold, blue, and stiff.  Unfortunately, organs from these traditional cadavers cannot be used for transplantation.


The Dead Donor Rule and Organ Transplantation, Robert D. Truog, M.D., and Franklin G. Miller, Ph.D., published August 14, 2008, at: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp0804474 (emphasis added).


Similarly, whistleblower Doctor Cicero G. Coimbra, MD PhD, a neurologist and professor of neuroscience at the Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil, who warns about the murder involved in “harvesting” a person’s vital organs, states plainly how crucial a person’s beating heart is for “harvesting” his vital organs:


if it’s not beating you cannot use vital organsIf there is an arrest in circulation, you have damaged organs that you’re trying to transplant to other people. 


Read the June 5, 2019 interview of Dr. Coimbra here: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/neurologist-exposes-brain-death-myth-behind-multi-billion-dollar-organ-transplant-industry (emphasis added).

[11]         Two advocates for vital organ transplantation candidly admitted that “brain death” as real death is considered a fiction which is expedient in order to obtain vital organs.  In an article published in Intensive Care Medicine, they state:


Brain death is, since the first definitions in the scientific literature in 1968, closely related to organ donation.  This is why, some scholars consider equating brain death to death as a moral and legal fiction.  […] Without the needs of transplantation medicine, ‘brain death as death’ would not exist at all ….


Erwin J.O. Kompanje and Yorik J. de Groot, Sounding board: is mandatory recovery of organs for transplantation acceptable? Published in Intensive Care Medicine (2015) 41:1836–1837.  This is quoted and cited in ‘Brain death’ is a medical fiction invented to harvest organs from living people: expert, an article found here: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/brain-death-is-a-medical-fiction-invented-to-harvest-organs-from-living-people-expert


[12]         A definition of irreversible coma: report of the ad hoc committee of the Harvard Medical School to examine the definition of brain death. JAMA 1968;205:337340


[14]         The Dead Donor Rule and Organ Transplantation, Robert D. Truog, M.D., and Franklin G. Miller, Ph.D., published August 14, 2008, at: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp0804474 (emphasis added).


[15]         November 24, 1957, Address to an International Congress of Anesthesiologists, Pope Pius XII (emphasis added).

[16]         Here is how this truth is stated in one article published in the New England Journal of Medicine:


[Brain dead] patients look very much alive: they are warm and pink; they digest and metabolize food, excrete waste, undergo [physical] maturation, …. To a casual observer, they look just like patients who are receiving long-term artificial ventilation and are asleep.


The Dead Donor Rule and Organ Transplantation, Robert D. Truog, M.D., and Franklin G. Miller, Ph.D., published August 14, 2008, at: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp0804474


[21]         Is “Brain Death” True Death? by Randy Engel, citing Brain Death – A U.K. Anesthetist’s View, by David J. Hill, published in Finis Vitae, edited by Paul A. Byrne, M.D., p.172, and found here: http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/engel/120117

[22]         See, e.g., a “brain dead” mother was kept alive for three months for the sake of her healthy child.  http://www.lifenews.com/2013/11/13/baby-boy-born-after-brain-dead-mother-kept-alive-three-months/


[24]         Quoted from IS THERE MORAL CERTAINTY THAT "BRAIN DEAD" ORGAN DONORS ARE DEAD?  This article is found here: http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/abbott/190423  summarizing an account given by Natalie Morales, in “‘Dead’ Man Recovering after ATV Accident," Dateline transcript, NBC News, March 23, 2008.


[27]         What You Lose When You Sign That Donor Card, By Dick Teresi, Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2012, page C3.


[28]         Neurologist exposes ‘brain death’ myth behind multi-billion-dollar organ transplant industry,  interview of Doctor Cicero G. Coimbra, MD PhD, a neurologist and professor of neuroscience at the Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil, June 6, 2019 from https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/neurologist-exposes-brain-death-myth-behind-multi-billion-dollar-organ-transplant-industry

[29]         A real law must be reasonable and for the Common Good.  Summa, Ia IIae, Q.90, a.4.  A government’s evil decrees (such as this one) are not real laws.  


[34]         This formula (rejecting vital organ donation is part of a draft living will contained here: https://catholiccandle.org/2020/07/01/use-of-ordinary-care-even-as-we-are-dying/


[35]            Here is summary of this basic truth about the various ways we can be responsible for another’s sin:


328. When are we answerable for the sins of others? 

We are answerable for the sins of others whenever we either cause them, or share in them, through our own fault. 

329. In how many ways may we either cause or share the guilt of another’s sin? 

We may either cause or share the guilt of another’s sin in nine ways:


1.    By counsel.


2.    By command.

3.    By consent.

4.    By provocation.

5.    By praise or flattery.

6.    By concealment.

7.    By being a partner in the sin.

8.    By silence.

9.    By defending the ill done.


Quoted from The Penny Catechism, Nihil Obstat, Joannes M.T. Barton, S.T.D., L.S.S., Censor deputatus, Imprimatur, Georgius L. Craven, Epus Sebastopolis, Vicarius Generalis, Westmonasterii, die 20a Junii, 1958, p.57 (emphasis added).


[36]         Quoted from: Latin America: A Sketch of its Glorious Catholic Roots and a Snapshot of its Present, by the Editors of Quanta Cura Press, ©2016, Section 2 – (Latin) North America – Mexico, p.38.