Page 5 - The Final Journey

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D
etermining
death
When it comes to determining death,
it has become more difficult
to clearly define it due to medical advances. In a 1985 report, the
Pontifical Academy of Sciences stated that death can be determined
when: one, the spontaneous cardiac and respiratory functions have
definitely ceased, or two, an irreversible cessation of every brain
function, including the brain stem, is verified. It is clear from that
report that these two events, or ways of determining death, are
related, since the first determination quickly leads to the second.
Evenwhen biological brain functions are sustained artificially,
once there is complete brain death, even artificially sustained life
will eventually fail, and the human body will no longer be able to
sustain on its own an integrative principle that prolongs life. At that
point of complete brain death, it would be ethical to intervene by
stopping all external support and declaring death while allowing
for critical organs to be removed. The Church believes organ
donation is a praiseworthy example of Christian charity and people
are encouraged to donate their organs after death. It is always
appropriate to seek medical advice related to organ donation.
Morality and living themoral life
are not so much about rules and
regulations but about values, enduring happiness, and being able to
make the right decisions in life.
End-of-life decisions have become very complicated.
Therefore
the Church, as a good teacher, gives people clear principles to guide
them in making such decisions.
The Church does not teach that we are obligated to use all
availablemeans to sustain human life.
On Nov. 24, 1957, in a talk
to anesthesiologists, Pope Pius XII evoked the principle in which he
stated,
“…Normally one is held to use only ordinary means - according
to circumstances of persons, places, times, and culture - that is to say,
means that do not involve any grave burden for oneself or another.”
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