Icons, Heroes and Other Clay-Footed Ideologues

The Golden Globe awards were as deliberately politically correct as ever, including the presentation of a best actor for miniseries or made-for-TV movie award to Al Pacino for his portrayal of Jack Kevorkian in the HBO film, You Don’t Know Jack. Prior to the award ceremony, Wesley Smith wrote, “I try not to get into personalities here. But Jack Kevorkian is an icon of all that I see going wrong with our culture. The man was not—and is not—about compassionate help for people who are suffering. His assisted suicide campaign was always about him.” 

If it is indeed true that Kevorkian, or Dr. Death as we like to call him, is an icon of evil practices, then why would someone as prestigious as Al Pacino go near the role? After all, can’t the “Godfather” do better than that? Apparently not, for as Pacino said of Kevorkian,  “Jack, in a strange way, represents a kind of hope and that gives [patients] enough control over their lives. ‘I can do it. I don’t have to go through this. I can go out with dignity.’”

And there you have it, folks! Al Pacino has spoken!  Now the madman, a so-called doctor, responsible for “helping” more than 130 people kill themselves by using his assisted suicide machine has been proclaimed a purveyor of “hope.” Please note, however, that those who were killed did not kill themselves. “Assisted suicide” is doctor-imposed death; the doctor does the killing.

In 1998, Kevorkian announced that he was making one of his victim’s kidneys available for transplant. So not only is Jack a fountain of hope, but apparently a twisted kind of compassion as well.

But Kevorkian-esque organ donation is not typical. More often than not the desire to donate an organ comes about due to a sincere concern for the welfare of someone who is in need of a transplant. This “desire to donate” is done without the informed consent of the donor or the recipient. People are asked if they wish to donate under the guise that their loved one is truly dead when the organs are taken. This is not the truth. Every time a heart is transplanted, it is a beating heart that is stopped as the transplant surgeon cuts it out. The heart must be healthy. As the heart is cut out, the donor becomes dead. 

For example, the precious little girl America fell in love with after her violent death, Christina-Taylor Green, was an organ “donor.”  Her corneas reportedly gave two children the ability to see. Corneas, which are tissues, not organs, can be taken after there is no circulation or respiration for hours. Vital organs (e.g., heart and liver) must be taken while there is a living person with circulation and respiration, or within minutes of no oxygen to these organs, or they are so damaged that they are not suitable for transplantation.

Another child in Boston is reported to have received a chance to live out her life because of a lifesaving transplant—though the nature of that transplant is not known. In fact, a great deal of information is not being reported at this time.

We admire the good intentions of Christina’s parents but, at the same time, we continue to be concerned with the persistent glorification of organ donation.  All the hype aside, there are some dreadful practices among those who take organs from one not quite dead patient so that another can allegedly live. This is why the Catholic Church in her wisdom instructs us, “It is not morally admissible to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons.”

The heroic decision of the Greens may be as ethical as it could be given the circumstances. Having said that, we must be constantly vigilant about those who clamor for organs and orchestrate scenarios whereby vital organs are removed from patients who are not dead. Such ideologues are not compassionate; they are not delivering hope to the suffering; they are in fact, like Kevorkian, manipulating living persons at their most vulnerable moments for ends which are anything but laudable. 

No matter how you package it, compassion administered by bureaucracies devoid of love for Christ and His passion is going to kill somebody. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.