Edit: USA Today wrote a very important article following my blog post called Death by Donation: Euthanizing Patients for Organs.
Although I am a Catholic priest, I am also an ex-paramedic and I graduated pre-health from Boston College. I am writing this blog post “Why you should say no to organ donation on your driver’s license” as a former paramedic, not as a priest. In other words, this blog post will be practical medical advice for all readers Catholic or non-Catholic. There will be no overt Catholic bioethics below, except these two sentences: The Catholic Church has no problem with organ donation per-se. The problem is that certain organs are always cut out of living people, effecting a homicide for “good reasons.”
Although a liver or a cornea could be harvested from a cadaver for organ donation from a dead body, a heart is always cut out of a living body in first world countries. The term “Brain Death” was invented by a team of Harvard physicians to re-define death for this very purpose. So called “brain-death” essentially means that a patient has an active cardio-vascular system, but with reduced activity on the electroencephalogram (EEG.) An EEG measures electrical activity in the brain. This should not be confused with an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) which measures the electrical activity of the heart. Transplant surgeons prefer to cut the heart out of live patients with active EKGs (but minimal EEGs) because a heart that has stopped beating actually harms the tissue via something called a “hypoxic insult” to the tissue. Remember that the heart must beat oxygen-rich blood not only to the whole body, but to the heart itself.