A couple of weeks ago I published an article in which I discussed organ donation and two incidents involving individuals who found themselves in a position where they had to make decisions concerning ending the lives of family members who had been declared brain-dead. If you didn’t have a chance to read the article, you can find it here.
Shortly after I published the article, a member of our parish, Therese Wille, posted a comment on the website that was critical of the way I wrote the article. I replied to the comment and offered to publish her comment and my reply in an upcoming Adoration Letter. Therese gave her approval, so here’s the comment she posted:
I have worked as a registered nurse on 2400 – the Nephrology, Urology, and Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Unit at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center – since 1993.
I take exception to what you have written in the Perpetual Adoration Letter dated September 30, 2012.
I have cared for hundreds of patients who have received “the gift of life” due to the selfless acts of people who have chosen to be organ donors or whose family members made the heart wrenching decision at the end of the patients’ life here on Earth.
In Illinois, there is a waiting list of 4,475 people waiting for a kidney. Here in the Peoria area alone there are 400 people on the waiting list for a kidney.
Words such as yours that were in the Perpetual Adoration letter set organ donation back considerably. If you were to walk in the shoes of a chronic renal failure patient or a diabetic who is on the waiting lists for these vital organs, you may have a different perspective in your writings. You have planted a very negative seed into the mind of anyone who read your newsletter. A more fair and balanced approach would have been appreciated in regard to all the positive, loving outcomes that occur with organ donation.
Here are two links to help educate you and dispel the myths about organ donation.
The staff with the ROBI (Regional Organ Bank of Illinois) has received much training in speaking with family members at a most difficult time in their lives.
I have witnessed their caring spirit as they spoke to families about their decision. As a nurse, I do not take part in this discussion. This would be considered a conflict of interest.
A suggestion: Utilize a statement such as the one below in a future newsletter which emphasizes the “self-giving love for others” that occurs with organ donation – as per Pope John Paul II.
Pope John Paul II summed up the position of the Church in these words:
“[T]he Gospel of life is to be celebrated above all in daily living, which should be filled with self-giving love for others. … Over and above such outstanding moments, there is an everyday heroism, made up of gestures of sharing, big or small, which build up an authentic culture of life. A particularly praiseworthy example of such gestures is the donation of organs, performed in an ethically acceptable manner, with a view to offering a chance of health and even of life itself to the sick who sometimes have no other hope.” (Evangelium Vitae, No. 86)
Thank you for your time.
Here’s the response I posted:
Thank you for your thoughtful comments concerning organ donation.
Neither of the instances that I commented on in my article occurred at OSF Saint Francis, where I’m sure the staff is well trained and is better prepared to deal with families who are in distress than are the staff of most other hospitals.
I think you would agree with me that OSF Saint Francis holds itself and its staff to a higher level of ethics and standards than other local hospitals. I would expect that this is true of the majority of other Catholic hospitals in the United States.
From my perspective, the opinion of a Catholic doctor at OSF Saint Francis would be of greater value than the opinion of a non-Catholic doctor at a secular hospital. Also, having gone through the experiences that I wrote about, if I were ever in a situation where I had to make an end-of-life decision, I would want to get a second and/or third opinion as to whether my loved one was brain-dead. In addition, after asking as many people as possible to storm heaven with prayers for a miracle, I would want to take my time making a decision.
There are clearly two parts to the organ donation equation. The first part is the opinion of one or more doctors that a person is brain-dead and the subsequent decision of one or more family members to end the life of the person. The second part is the actual process that takes place in removing organs and tissues from the person’s body and transferring those organs and tissues to one or more people who are in need.
It was not my intention to turn people against the second part of the organ donation equation. After reading about the lawsuit that was referenced in my article, I felt compelled to share my experiences so that people would have an opportunity to consider ahead of time what they would have to go through if they were to find themselves in a situation where one of their loved ones was on life support and had been declared by a doctor to be brain-dead.
I would expect that most families confronted with an end-of-life decision would want to be given a chance to think the situation through ahead of time so they could at least feel as though they were not being rushed into making a decision.
Prior to final publication of my article, I made several changes to what I had written because I wanted to avoid making anyone feel guilty about already having made a decision to end the life of a loved one. After I published the article, I received an email from a woman who said she had been through the process of having to make end-of-life decisions on three separate occasions for members of her immediate family. She said she appreciated reading my perspective on the topic.
You indicated in your comment that you felt that my article did not provide a fair and balanced view of organ donation. Since your comment provided your perspective and some links to an organ donor website, I’m willing to publish your complete comment (including the links to the website) along with my response in an upcoming Adoration Letter. Let me know whether you would like me to do that.
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.
Although I don’t have the time to respond to every comment, I’m always open to comments, different points of view, and constructive criticism. It is never my intention to be offensive, but because I am at times blunt and aggressive, my opinions and comments tend to irritate some people. In addition to providing a different point of view, Therese’s comments allowed me to further explain my position. You are now more informed about the topic than 95 percent of your fellow Catholics.