Possible brain death law changes pose ethical concerns

Some Catholic doctors and medical ethicists have raised concern about possible forthcoming changes to the legal definition of brain death used in most U.S. states. The issue of whether family consent should be required for brain death testing is of particular importance, especially since a determination of brain death can allow for patients’ organs to be harvested if they are registered as an organ donor.

“It’s somewhat interesting that the church formally declared a human person begins at the moment of conception, but at the end of life they’re kind of passing the buck,” said Joseph Eble, president of the Tulsa, Oklahoma guild of the Catholic Medical Association and co-author of a March article in Homiletic & Pastoral Review expressing concern about potential Uniform Determination of Death Act changes.

“Obviously, at the moment of conception, the human person doesn’t have a brain, so you can’t say that a brain is necessary to have a human person,” he said, adding that the issue of brain death is complicated.

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