Heart transplants are forcing doubts about the definition of death. There is growing tendency to make abortions legal. Many are asking if medical science is going too far.
PATIENT'S HEART stops beating. He stops breathing. The surgeons quickly spark the heart back to beating like once-dead batteries. The heart is kept beating by a mechanical device called a respirator. The patient does not regain consciousness. His brain is regarded as scientifically dead. But is the patient dead, while his heart is kept artificially beating by a machine? The time-honored definition of death is this: "When the heart and circulation no longer function" death has occurred.
WHEN Did the Heart Donor Die?
The patient is a heart donor. He has legally donated his heart, upon death, for a heart transplant operation on another patient. In September, 1968, a dying boy from New Brunswick was being flown to Montreal. He had offered his heart for transplant. His heart was being kept artificially beating by a respirator. The question is, when did the boy die — before it was sparked back and kept functioning by the respirator, or when the surgeons removed it from his body during the transplant operation? The question that is causing so much uneasiness, of course, is that if death occurred when the surgeons operated and cut his heart from his body, were the surgeons committing murder? Obviously if the patient was dead prior to the mechanical heartbeats, the surgeons are cleared of all blame. Further, in this moral question of right or wrong, there arises the question of how long the doctors are morally obligated to maintain the mechanically induced heartbeats? How long are they morally obligated to maintain a purely mechanical functioning of a person who is no better than a human vegetable — without consciousness or normal activity of LIFE?
A "Human Vegetable"?
There are cases where a patient has been rendered permanently unconscious by brain damage caused by an automobile accident, yet doctors have kept the patient alive for years either with or without artificial mechanical means. Such a patient is virtually a human vegetable. There is no consciousness, no normal human activity, no knowing, and no personality. Yet all physical bodily functions are kept active. Probably no one would contend that such a person is dead. Yet there is the legitimate question: are the doctors morally obligated to maintain the physical functioning in such a case by artificial and purely mechanical means? Regardless of the moral answer, most if not all medical men would do all possible to keep such a body alive as long as possible.
There is possibility that by such artificial means the hearts of both President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy might have been sparked back to beating, provided the doctors had the opportunity to do so immediately (which probably they didn't). But in neither case could they have been kept physically functioning for more than a very short interval. There is this difference between the Kennedy assassinations and the motor car accident victims who have been kept alive, though unconscious: both Kennedys were wounded at that point near the base of the brain which severed the brain from any control of bodily functions. Accident victims who have been kept unconsciously alive for long periods of time had received damage which prevented conscious mind-functioning, but did not prevent those bodily functions which are connected with the brain.
What about Abortion?
Right now pressures are being more and more exerted in the Western world to make abortions legal. Under certain Conditions, of course. Such as requiring the assent of two or three doctors. The pressures are primarily one-sided. I haven't heard many indignant, emotionally aroused well-organized protests to prevent it. This is in line with the toboggan-slide in morals. Fornication and adultery are fast gaining public acceptance. For several years outright profanity has been accepted on the stage. And now the question of whether legal abortion amounts to legal permission to commit murder does not seem to raise many eyebrows, let alone ignite flames of spontaneous protest. These current trends accompany the alarming increase in crime, in broken homes and divorce, in student revolt and campus violence, in racial strife erupting into riots, arson and murder. These are the questions. These are the conditions. These are the trends.
But WHAT ARE THE ANSWERS?
We often say newspapers, newscasts, other magazines report the news, pose the questions, and picture the conditions. The PLAIN TRUTH gives the answers, reveals the solutions. We have said, too, that when we look to science and technology for the solutions, we find most of these problems are outside their field. We look to modern higher education, but they, too, seem not concerned with moral spiritual questions. Their emphasis is on the intellect, on the physical sciences and technologies, and the professions. We look to governments, but they are not custodians of morals. We look to religion, but religion has given us no solution, except a watered-down teaching that is absorbing the world's modernity and adding its assent to increasing public acceptance of the immoral so-called New Morality. Where, then, for solutions? WHO can give positive answers — solutions that solve problems, end troubles, bring happy and abundant wellbeing. WHERE can we go to know what is right, and what is wrong — and to know why the wrong is wrong? One man thinks it is wrong even to smoke cigarettes, another thinks it is right and smokes his three packs a day. Do humans, after all, automatically know right from wrong?
Where, for an Authority on Morals?
Until World War I much of the Western world more or less accepted the Roman Catholic Church as the Authority on morals. Protestants generally accepted the Catholic definitions of morality, although not necessarily following them in practice. The protestant Sunday school in which I was brought up pronounced Sunday theatergoing a sin — if not theatergoing at any time. So we boys in our early teens sneaked out, without our parents' knowledge, to the Sunday afternoon matinee — following Sunday school attendance Sunday mornings. Other Protestant denominations may not have frowned so emphatically on theatergoing. So today many university students are being told there are no absolutes. No one can know for sure. We must adjust to living in a world beset with increasing problems and troubles, with no solutions in sight. So we have the spectacle of discouraged, frustrated young people, seeing no hope for a future, dropping out of society, rejecting "The Establishment," escaping to a Hippie colony, trying to drown out of their consciousness the specter of a dead-end future in marijuana, drugs, and promiscuous sex. College campus suicides are on a rapid increase. Our Philip Wylies and John O'Haras paint masterful word-pictures of this troubled society. But, like the newspapers, newscasts, and other magazines, their brilliant rhetoric stops short of workable solutions. Must a frustrated world throw up its hands in despair? Is there no Authority? Is there no WAY that is out of our troubles? I am always saying that all things operate on the law of CAUSE and EFFECT. For every evil result there had to be a wrong CAUSE. But in this world today it seems all society ignores the cause and tries only to deal with the effect. One example of this is modern medicine. There was once a rumor that in China the doctors operated on a different format — that they charged patients only for keeping them well, and received no fees for treating the sick. But medicine in the Western world pays little attention to the CAUSE of sickness and disease, and treats primarily the EFFECT. Actually, the sickness or disease is merely the PENALTY nature is exacting because its physical LAWS which regulate the physical body and mind have been broken. People seldom call in the physician until they are ill. Then medical science attempts to demonstrate that nature is unable to enforce its own laws by nullifying or removing the penalty. A science which pays little attention to causes and treats only the effects cannot give us the answers to such moral problems as whether it is WRONG to commit an abortion, or whether it is RIGHT to take a human heart that is still beating and transplant it into another human. Surgeons have demonstrated that they can accomplish the transplant. They can do the job. They have not as yet demonstrated how long such a transplanted heart will function satisfactorily in its recipient. That will require a little more time. So again we ask, WHERE can we go for the answers? Certainly not to any source that has won mere acceptance by society as an infallible Authority. But has society, then, overlooked or neglected a true Source?
What Society Has Overlooked
We have found such a Source that comes up with the answers that make sense! A neglected, rejected, misrepresented, maligned, little-understood Source that reveals solutions that will work — that will end the troubles! THERE IS NO OTHER! Those who refuse to even consider this Authority have to say in hopelessness, "We DON'T KNOW! We are IGNORANT. In our vanity of intellect, we profess that we are wise and knowledgeable, while we reject knowledge, refusing and rejecting the only solutions." The PLAIN TRUTH about these questions is neither superstition nor ignorance. But today the tragedy of civilization is that superstition, baseless hypotheses, fables, and ignorance are being palmed off on a deceived world in the guise of higher education, knowledge, science, and fact. And the world suffers on! Its evils and wretchedness accelerate! WHERE do we find the sane and true answers? We do find them — in the very Book most religious denominations claim as the source of their beliefs and teachings — yet voluminous portions of that Book they seem utterly to ignore. That is why religion as organized in the Western world has never given the world the SOLUTIONS! In plain language, then, about 90% or more of the Bible is seldom used, mostly ignored, certainly not understood. Yet here is basic knowledge. Here is truth. Here is rational explanation. Here is revelation of the CAUSES — the reasons for evil results. Here is THE WAY this world will be changed — its problems solved — its potentially peaceful, happy, and vigorously joyful state finally realized — AND SO SOON HUMANITY WILL BEHOLD IT IN WONDER!
Needed — the Answers
This Book — this living Authority — this Instruction Book sent along by our Maker — is the absolute Authority on morals — on what is right or wrong — and WHY! It shows WHY wrong causes bring unhappy results. It shows that the Creator has set in dynamic motion certain LAWS. Science knows something of the laws of physics and chemistry — but gives little or no heed to the Maker and Sustainer of these laws. But also the Creator set in living, motion inexorable spiritual laws. These regulate man's relationships with fellowman and with his living Maker. These laws produce definite results. What, then, do we find revealed about life and death? What about the definition of death? Can we know from this tragically neglected source, whether the donors whose hearts are kept beating by respirators are already dead before the surgeons remove their hearts for transplanting? And WHAT about abortions? Is it murder to remove an embryo or a fetus? Is the unborn child a human being? Or do we become living humans only upon birth? Here are the questions that plague doctors, lawyers, even theologians. Next month will appear a sequel giving the answers.