New York Proposes ‘Presumed Consent’ Organ Harvesting Law

By Kathleen Gilbert
NEW YORK, April 29, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Citing the shortage in organs available for transplant, a state assemblyman in New York has proposed that all citizens of the state become automatically enrolled as candidates for organ harvesting.

New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky has introduced a new bill in Albany that aims to enroll all New Yorkers as organ donors unless they take action to opt out.
If passed, Brodsky’s bill would become the first such law the U.S. However, a similar bill was also introduced in Illinois earlier this year.

“We have 10,000 New Yorkers on the list today waiting for organs. We import half the organs we transplant. It is an unacceptable failed system,” Brodsky said, according to CBS News 2. Brodsky pointed to other nations who have passed similar laws that now are in force “without a lot of controversy.”

Despite the altruistic goal of such legislation, the current practice of organ harvesting has increasingly alarmed the pro-life community, as evidence continues to surface that the prerequisite “brain death” is often defined to ease the process of collecting fresher organs, rather than according to whether a person has actually died. The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine confirmed these fears in a 2008 article that backed up the notion that “brain dead” patients are often, in fact, still alive.

Cases such as that of 21-year-old Zack Dunlap, whose organs were nearly harvested before he suddenly responded to a family member’s last-ditch attempt to communicate with him, have forced pro-life doctors to question how many other donors were in fact alive and responsive to pain at the time their organs were removed.

According to LSN medical advisor Dr. John Shea, such donors are often given drugs to paralyze muscles before the process, to prevent them from moving, making it impossible to know whether they are aware or not. In a 2008 New York Times article on the use of anesthetic in neonatal operations, anesthesiologist Mark Rosen noted in passing that stress hormones are known to increase in “brain dead” patients during the organ harvesting process.

The question of “brain death” has even received attention by the Catholic Church: In a Vatican conference on “brain death” last year, doctors informed officials of evidence that the death of an organ donor occurs, not at the point of “brain death,” but due to the removal of his or her vital organs. Pope Benedict XVI warned the conference that “the main criterion” for organ removal must be “respect for the life of the donor so that the removal of organs is allowed only in the presence of his actual death.”

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