I Saved a Man's Life Saturday . . .


. . . his funeral is today.

Billy and Sarah Brown are expecting their eight child this week. Sarah, a very petite 37 year old—is "great with child." With 6 children under 13 years of age and a 20 year old daughter who was rescued from a botched abortion, Sarah had worked out a very unusual birth scenario for child number 8 . . . she was planning on being induced in the intensive care unit of a local hospital . . . the same room that her husband was being treated for an unexplained collapse at work. The plans were scrapped, when Sarah was informed by the hospital bioethicist that they needed to harvest Billy's organs the same day she had arranged with her mid-wife to be induced. Billy had been diagnosed by a single doctor to have suffered "brain death". There was no appeal. Georgia law allows a single doctor to make this diagnosis and within an hour of the diagnosis the body was being prepped for harvesting. They were going to rip his beating heart from his living body—with or without her permission because Billy had a Georgia drivers license which identified him as a willing donor.

Billy Brown was enjoying his coffee break in the breakroom of the Chevrolet dealership where he worked. He was having a telephone conversation with his parents when he suddenly collapsed. Quick thinking fellow workers called 911 and immediately began CPR until the emergency medical team arrived. They said his heart stopped six times in the first hour before they were able to stabilize him. Over the course of the next few days Billy was in and out of consciousness. By the fourth day he was making progress. He was responding to voice commands from his wife to move his toes, he squeezed her hand in response to questions and opened his eyes for short periods of time. Trauma to the brain often results in brain swelling. Unlike other organs, the brain is in an enclosed space that allows for expansion in only one area . . . downward onto the cortex. This pressure brings about a coma. Billy's brain swelled and he fell into a coma.

Not all comas are irreversible, over time the swelling subsides and there have been remarkable cases of spontaneous recovery. Here in Georgia, I witnessed a remarkable case testimony before a Georgia House committee debating the expansion of the role of hospitals to "harvest beating heart donors."  A doctor from the medical association was testifying to the need to broaden the pool of legal organ donors by having perfectly healthy people place a magnetic notice on their refrigerator that would state among other things, their acceptance of a "Do NOT Resuscitate" order that would grant a liberal definition of brain death and permit their hearts and lungs to be removed from their living bodies. Emergency medical personnel responding to the 911 call would check the refrigerator to see if this "Portable Medical Order" had been signed in advance by the patient allowing for, among other things, their hearts and lungs to be donated anatomically. Hearts and lungs are the only two organs that can NOT be taken from a dead body. In fact the removal of the beating heart is the actual cause of death listed on the death certificate. To hide the fact that this is the causative agent in the patients death, the death certificate reads "heart failure." A pro-abortion Democrat Representative Roger Bruce was sitting on the legislative panel hearing the doctor's testimony when he interrupted and said, "Doctor . . . you would have killed ME. I suffered a stroke a few years back and was comatose for ten days. Your counterparts came to my wife and said I was 'brain dead'. They asked her to donate my organs so that others could live. She said 'NO!' If it wasn't for my God-fearing wife . . . I wouldn't be here today! I am against this bill!"

I received a call from Sarah's pastor asking for emergency intervention on Saturday afternoon. In consulting with the pastor I learned that he had been diligent to teach his congregation on the importance of the doctrine of "imago dei" . . . the biblical position on the sanctity of life. One of the ramifications of this doctrine which he pointed out to his congregation was the importance of end-of-life decisions, including NOT listing themselves as organ donors on their driver's license because this could actually hasten their death, which is an unacceptable and immoral decision. The reason for this injunction was that you are signing permission to have your life shortened by the removal of your beating heart. Both Sarah and Billy discussed this with their pastor and agreed to revoke their designation the next time they renewed their drivers license. Sarah did so a few months later and Billy was going to do so in a few more months. He didn't make it officially according to the hospital donor representative. "We don't need your permission to follow Billy's wishes."

Georgia law allows for the revocation of an anatomical gift . . . "by others." I quickly consulted our attorney who crafted this revocation for the pastor and Sarah to sign and have witnessed. In it they reported that "due to a deeply held religious belief" Billy had expressed his desire to revoke his "gift" and that the hospital was in violation of his first amendment rights. I presented this revocation to the hospital's legal representative who said he needed to speak with his supervisor. His supervisor declared the document did not revoke their right to enforce Billy's wishes per his license, yet because of the sensitive nature of the circumstances they were withdrawing their claim. The hospital wisely backed down from a media firestorm that would have included a headline that read "Hospital Cuts Out Heart of Father the Day His 8th Child is Born."

I was able to aid Billy by advocating against his being harvested and killed by medical removal of his beating heart. I was not able to overcome the recently liberalized diagnosis of "brain death" which gives the hospital the right to unplug the patient from all life support. He died on Monday from "natural causes" relating to his underlying brain injury.

Later that evening I was taken aside to a private room by one of the nurses working in the intensive care unit. She broke down in tears and confessed that it is hard not to get involved emotionally in the lives and circumstances of her patients, but that her professionalism demands a steady calm demeanor. Sobbing, with tears running down her face, I sympathized with her and was about to extend my comforting words to attempt to ease her distress when she said, "I am weeping over how many people are going to die today because of what you and this family did to prevent his life saving organs from benefiting others."

[ Billy's funeral is today. Several of you have asked about gifts for Sara and the children.  We are asking for donations in lieu of flowers.  You can pass on to others that they can make a check to Restoring Faith Church in care of The Billy Brown Fund.  (address: 2715 Arbor Hill Rd., Canton GA 30115)  Any and all money will go directly to Sara for food, utilities, medical bills, housing, etc.  Billy's employer, Jim Ellis Chevrolet, is setting up a fund as well and it may take to the end of the week for that to be finalized.]