Euthenasia of people who are braindead

Question from Maureen on 11/9/2007:


I am a grade 12 Catholic student who would like to know what the Church teaches on the Euthanasia of people with Brain Death. Is it actually considered Euthanasia if they're not really alive, or are they alive?

I just had a huge debate on Euthanasia in Religion class and when this argument came up, none of us knew what to say. I don't know much about it.

Thank you so much for your time.


Answer by Judie Brown on 11/10/2007:

Dear Maureen

I recommend you read the complete text of a short brochure on the American Life League web site. You can read it at

The statement reads, in part,

People on both sides of the debate admit that “brain death” is flawed in theory and practice. Professor Dan Wikler, a noted ethicist from the University of Wisconsin who served on the presidential commission in the early 1980s, admits today that “brain death” is conceptually flawed.(6) Joining him and others is Robert Truog, who concludes in the January-February 1997 issue of the Hastings Center Report, that despite familiarity and widespread acceptance, “brain death” remains incoherent in theory and confused in practice.(7)

On a practical note, a number of physicians have pointed out that a diagnosis of “brain death” is disturbing because the patients do not “look dead.” Instead, they observe that these patients, aided by a ventilator [which supports but doesn't breathe for a patient] have spontaneously beating hearts, healthy skin color, warmth, digestion, and metabolism.(8) As a matter of fact, some “brain dead” patients have nourished and eventually given birth to living children via cesarean section.(9)

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