For the harvesting of vital organs from bodies that appear to be alive to be considered acceptable, it becomes important to be able to define a person as dead while their body is still “alive.” Taking of vital organs, necessarily, results in the death of the body. To harvest vital organs before a person is dead is not acceptable within biblical Christianity, since the Bible contains commands against killing. See blog posting Vital Organ Donation – The Most Important Question. Biblically, people are body and soul and at death there is a separation of body and soul. For biblical Christianity to accept vital organ harvesting from living bodies, death needs to be declared while the body is still alive. If death is defined by the moment the soul leaves the body, and we can show that the soul can leave the body while the life blood is still flowing, then those who follow the tenants of biblical Christianity can accept vital organ donation.
In the posting titled Personhood – Which Comes First Death of the Body or Departure of the Soul/ I grappled with the question of the mind. Science can show that activities of the mind and physical activities in the brain are connected but science does not prove that the mind is simply a function of physical brain activity. Clearly, for others to know that thoughts are occurring in a person’s mind the person must have a functioning brain to express the thoughts through. Actually, more than just a functioning brain is usually required. Except when there is some kind of real time brain scanner, such as a functional MRI scan, assessing the brain, we can only know that the mind is active when the brain uses the physical attributes of the body to express the activity of the mind, such as the movement of the lungs, vocal cords and mouth, etc. This does not necessarily mean that a person’s brain must be functioning in order to think. There are examples of people who because of brain malfunction have temporarily lost the ability to move or speak, who were later able to reveal that during the time of lost function that their minds were active. The question before us is this. Is there some area of the brain that is the mind, or is the mind other than the brain and only, in a sense, making use of the brain? I accept that the center of the mind in our bodies is the brain but is the brain the mind?
When does a pre-born baby take on the status of a person?
In a previous blog posting titled, Personhood – What Is It?, I said that a person has intrinsic value with rights and responsibilities. Personhood, is to have the intrinsic value of a human being with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with being human.
In the blog posting titled, Personhood – Image of God, I showed that this special intrinsic value is given to mankind as part of their creation and “included a body formed from the dust of the earth and a soul, breathed into man by God.” The passages presented show that Adam became a living being when the breath of God was “breathed” into him. Generally we accept that new born babies are fully human with both body and soul.
Where do we find comfort in life and in death? Is not a search for this comfort at least part of what is involved in activities like organ donation, invito fertilization, writing a living will and in considering euthanasia?
We often treat dying like an enemy to be avoided and battled against. If we are told that one of our vital organs is failing and our death will result unless we get a transplant, then it makes sense that we seek comfort in the possibility of a transplant. If a loved one has been involved in a serious accident and is on life support machines dying, some of us look for comfort in the idea that our loved one’s organs may be able to be used to give life to someone else. When it comes to living, most of us at some point in our lives desire to have children. It can be very distressing when no children come. How many of us look for comfort in invitro fertilization? Many of us have watched loved ones, or heard stories of people, who live in much suffering and pain in the latter days of life. Do we seek to find comfort in protecting ourselves from having to endure such pain, through the use of living wills and euthanasia? To what extent are we to seek comfort in things such as these?