You anoint even the unconscious, yet a medical friend tells me that, in his opinion, death takes place with final unconsciousness and before the heart stops beating.

That may be the opinion of your friend. But it is no more than his opinion The Catholic Church says that a man may be anointed within from half an hour to two hours of apparent death, according to the type of death. Not that a man is certainly still living but that there is a probability that the soul has not yet departed from the body, and the benefit of the doubt must be given to the unconscious man. Your medical friend has no certainty. The only certainty that a man is really dead, on the admission of the highest medical authorities, is cadaveric rigidity and initial decomposition. All other signs of death have probability only, unless of course a man has been smashed to pieces in a violent accident. This probability is shown by the fact that expert doctors, after the most diligent examination, have pronounced people dead who have later regained consciousness. I am very glad the law prevents doctors from giving certificates of death as soon as “final unconsciousness” appears, and before the heart stops beating. Until the heart does stop, one could not know whether a particular lapse into unconsciousness is to be final or not. And even when the heart has stopped, there is no absolute certainty that the soul has actually departed in that moment. There is but a solid probability which does not exclude all doubt. And the Church rightly gives the benefit of the doubt to the subject.

Radio Replies Volume 1 by Rev. Dr. Leslie Rumble MSC and Rev. Charles Mortimer Carty

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The Case for Catholicism - Answers to Classic and Contemporary Protestant Objections

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