Is it true that the American Medical Association (AMA) has approved the removal of vital organs, e.g. the heart, from newborn anencephalic babies who are still alive?

The AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs has certainly recommended this action.

Any organ transplant, but especially that of an unpaired organ such as the heart, demands very strict medical-legal rules. In the USA, there are two laws which specify whose organs may be used, and when: the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act; and the Uniform Determination of Death Act. “Brain Death” is one of the essential criteria for determining death before an organ is removed from the donor.

The AMA’s Council wants to make a “limited exception” to the rules. Under the current definition of death, anencephalic babies are “still alive.” Nevertheless, the AMA’s council has recommended that the brain-dead criteria should not apply to these babies (the “limited exception” to the rules), and that the babies be qualified as organ donors while still living. In other words, a heart could be removed from a living baby.

This recommendation has been strongly condemned by the Catholic physicians’ guilds in the United States. But the doctors go further, for they see that the issue is even larger than that of anencephalic babies. They warn that once one “limited exception” is made, others will follow. Patients who lack consciousness, but have a functional brain stem will be at risk.

We might as well realize that once physicians deliberately kill some patients to help others, we shall all be endangered.

“If the physician presumes to take into consideration in his worth whether a life as a value or not, the consequences are boundless and the physician becomes the most dangerous man in the state.” Dr. Christopher Hufeland (1762-1836)

The Catholic physicians’ guilds have recently passed a resolution to oppose “all attempts to qualify any living human being as a donor of an unpaired vital organ.”

How can we get others, especially politicians, to see how many fundamental rights (pro-life, pro-family, pro-Canadian citizen) have been lost or are under attack?

This question was raised at a recent conference, and I have no real answer. I still have no answer, but by chance I came across a copy of The Canadian Bill of Rights and I offer this as a starting point for reflection and discussion. The Bill, enacted by Parliament in 1960, that is nine years before the abortion law, gives us a means of measuring society’s decline in the last 35 years. I quote in part: Preamble.

“The Parliament of Canada, affirming that the Canadian Nation is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity and worth of the human person and the position of the family in a society of free men and free institutions;

“Affirming also that men and institutions remain free only when freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law;

“And being desirous of enshrining there principles and the human rights and fundamental freedom derived from them, in a Bill of Rights which shall reflect the respect of Parliament for its constitutional authority and which shall ensure the protection of these rights and freedoms in Canada…”

Part 1. Bill of Rights

1.                  It is hereby recognized and declared that in Canada there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely,

(a)                                       the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by the process of law

(b)                                       the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law

(c)                                       freedom of religion

(d)                                       freedom of speech

(e)                                       freedom of assembly and association, and

(f)                                         freedom of the press.

My question, how far has Parliament moved by 1996 from the “principles” and “values” named in the preamble, and on which the Canadian Nation is founded?

Many Canadians would argue that contemporary circumstances bear little resemblance to the values embodied in the Bill of Rights. A re-emphasis on the Bill of Rights and the protection it affords and all Canadians is in order if we are to get back on the right track. We might even look forward to the day when unborn children are regarded as full human beings worthy of legal protection under the Bill of Rights.