Volume 11, Issue 2, Summer 2011
John M. Haas
Catholic Teaching regarding the Legitimacy of Neurological Criteria for the Determination of Death
In The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II encouraged organ donation as a genuine act of charity. Some Catholics reject the notion of vital organ transplantation and the use of neurological criteria to determine a donor’s death before organs are extracted. This article reviews Church teaching on the use of neurological criteria for determining death—including statements by three popes, a number of pontifical academies and councils, and the U.S. bishops—to show that Catholics may in good conscience offer the gift of life through the donation of their organs after death as determined by those criteria, and may in good conscience receive such organs. This article is not a defense of the legitimacy of neurological criteria for determining death but rather a presentation of the moral guidance currently offered by the Church on the legitimacy of organ donation after death has been determined by their use. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 11.2 (Summer 2011): 279–299.