Monday, August 15, 2011

Courtney Nash, Organ Transplants, and Bingo

A teenager in Florida died this weekend, from amoebic meningitis. Her mother says it was a "freak accident,"1 and I'm inclined to agree. Her mother also thinks that "God had a higher calling for her daughter."1 I'm inclined to agree with that, too: and the two statements aren't as inconsistent as they may seem.

Before anything else, though - a suggestion. Family and friends of Courtney Nash are hurting. They've lost a daughter, sister, friend: and prayer for them couldn't hurt. Also a prayer for Courtney.

Praying for the welfare of someone who's already dead may seem odd to some Americans. For Catholics who understand their faith - not so much, I hope. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1032) And I'm getting off-topic.

God Killed Courtney?!

I've run into some pretty amazing assumptions about God's actions and motivations. Like saying that the Almighty slaughtered Haitians in 2010 because of what their ancestors (presumably) did centuries before. I'm not making that up.2 Then there were clueless remarks made after the earthquake in Japan this year.3

I'm a practicing Catholic, so I have to believe that God upholds and sustains creation 24/7. (Catechism, 301) Also that secondary causes exist. (Catechism, 306-308) Which doesn't make me a sort of 'robot for God.' I've got free will. So do you. (Catechism, 307)

If God continually upholds and sustains creation, how could He possibly have let Courtney die? For that matter, why did a loving God let two of our six children die?

I don't know. I don't need to know. God's God, I'm not.4 And I'm getting off-topic again.

Courtney Nash: "Freak Accident"

If you hadn't heard of amoebic meningitis before, don't be too surprised. From 1937 to 2007, the CDC only knows of 121 cases of the disease in America. That's between eight and no cases per year. I put links to a few resources about this happily-rare condition under "Background," near the end of this post.

The amoeba that causes the disease lives in warm water, enters the body through the nose, and generally kills its victims. The good news is that it's very rare, at least in this country. The CDC's "Naegleria FAQ" gives a few precautions folks can take to keep from having their brains eaten by this microblob.

I think calling Courtney's death a "freak accident" is pretty accurate - given what the term means in conversational English, and how rare that particular amoeba is.

Voluntary Organ Donation: "Noble and Meritorous"

I also think Courtney's mother is right, thinking that "God had a higher calling for her daughter." Apparently the amoeba that killed her stays in the brain of its victims:
"...Just seven days earlier Courtney signed up to be an organ donor when she got her drivers license, something that's now giving her mother peace. 'I got a call last night. They took her into surgery at 4 o'clock by 8:30 both lungs were already transplanted. The liver, the pancreas, this morning. This morning they're performing another miracle for someone else. They're putting kidneys in and they're doing more later today,' said PJ. She now believes God had a higher calling for her daughter...."
Are organ transplants okay? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. (Catechism, 2296)

I gather that Courtney's decision to be an organ donor was "a noble and meritorous act." (Catechism, 2296) Which isn't the same as saying that organ donation is always a good thing:
" is not morally admissible directly to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons."
(Catechism, 2296)
In other words, arranging for someone else to use your organs after you're dead is a good thing. Killing one person to get organs that might help another person isn't a good thing.

No wonder Catholic teachings are called "vague" now and then. (July 18, 2009) We aren't told that gambling and alcohol are Satanic, and that sex is bad - unless you're married and are suitably grim about doing it. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2413, 2290, 2331-2336, 2360-2372) Let's put it this way: When God created man, "male and female," He didn't say 'oh, gross!' (Genesis 1:28) Still more topics.

Bottom line? Courtney Nash's death is a great loss to her family and friends. But folks who received her organs have a new lease on life: which, I think, is a good thing.

Somewhat-related posts:
In the news:
1 "Teen who died from amoeba now saving other lives," Holly Bristow, FOX 35 News (August 15, 2011)

2 "Haiti: Voodoo, Pat Robertson, and the Catholic Church"
(January 16, 2010)

3 "Japan's Earthquake, Divine Retribution, and the Tower at Siloam"
(March 15, 2011)

4 I've been over this sort of unanswerable question several times, including these posts:

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.