In the blog titled Personhood-the-most-important-question-today I raised the question with respect to Vital Organ Donation, “Does vital organ procurement result in the death of the person? Or is the person somehow separate from the body, such that the person can be dead and the body still alive?”
In blogs titled Personhood-What Is It? and Personhood-Image of God, I said that persons are specially created by God. Persons are the image of God. Persons are united body and soul. A persons special status begins at conception and continues until death, at which time the body returns to the dust and the soul goes to God.
If all persons are created in the image of God, a person that has life is the image of God. This is independent of the person’s functional abilities. An unborn baby, with its very limited functional capacity is no less a person. Dr Steven Nelson points out in his essay, titled “‘The Least of These’: A Christian Moral Appraisal of Vital Organ Procurement From ‘Brain-Dead’ Patients,” that
because the Imago Dei is a biologic attribute, [image of God simply because it is human,] it inheres in human beings from the moment of conception, as suggested by the doctrine of the Incarnation. As such, although the image is reflected in different human beings to varying degrees, it is none-the-less present in all who are biologically human. It follows that functional capabilities are irrelevant to human personhood. Every human being, regardless of capabilities, is a person who has a moral claim to neighbor love. This neighbor love precludes the use of human beings as means to others’ ends.1
As such, the “brain dead” patient is still alive. Their bodies are living and not ready to be returned to the dust. Their blood is still flowing. Their body is still functioning with lungs that continue to transport oxygen into the blood keeping the cells of the body alive. Since personhood, biblically, is not defined by functional capabilities, it is not defined by function or lack of function of the brain. While there is life there is personhood, there is image of God, and there is intrinsic value. (see blog posting titled, Personhood-Image of God)
For organs to be useful, they must be alive. For organs to be alive they need to come from a living body. If the organs are vital or necessary for the body to continue to live, then taking these organ necessarily results in death of the body, which is the death of biblical personhood or death of life made in the “image of God.” Does the Bible authorize us to take such a life, to take the life of a person?.
1. Steven n. Nelson, MD., “‘The Least of These’: A Christian Moral Appraisal of Vital Organ Procurement from ‘Brain-Dead’ Patients”, Ethics and Medicine: An International Journal of Bioethics, Vol 20:1, 2004. p 13-14.