Advancing Voluntary, Informed Consent to Medical Intervention
Paul Byrne, MD
Paul A. Byrne, M.D., has a long and distinguished career as a board-certified pediatrician and neonatologist spanning six decades.
“My medical philosophy is that the best doctors are the ones who work the hardest on the people who are the sickest,” he says. “What you try to accomplish for those sickest people first will ultimately have a beneficial impact on the rest of humanity.”
Dr. Byrne was engaged in private practice of pediatrics in St. Louis, MO. for twenty years. In 1963 he founded the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis MO. Dr. Byrne was recruited by numerous university hospitals where he served as either Director of Neonatology or Chairman of Pediatrics in Ohio, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, and Bridgeport CT. These include St. Charles Mercy Hospital in Oregon, OH; Riverside Hospital in Toledo, OH; Oral Roberts University, School of Medicine in Tulsa, OK; St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Bridgeport, CT; Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Cardinal Glennon Memorial Hospital for Children, St. Louis, MO. He has been on a medical school faculty since 1961. He continues as Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Toledo, College of Medicine, Ohio. Dr. Byrne served as the Chairman of the Ethics Committee of the City of Faith Medical and Research Center in Tulsa, OK.
Dr. Byrne’s passion is saving lives. He is a longtime pro-life activist who has devoted his career to life and death issues and the challenges posed by premature infants and babies with congenital illnesses. Dr. Byrne established the very first Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital (CGCH) in St. Louis in 1963 and was its Director for close to twenty years. During that first year 30 babies were referred. By the time he left Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital more than 600 babies per year were referred from more than 50 hospitals. Due to his ingenuity and having partnered with space program engineers. a plastic cuff that enabled the astronauts’ blood pressure to be monitored during space missions was adapted from the astronauts’ finger cuff to fit the arm of a tiny baby. This cuff is used worldwide to record blood pressure on infants and children
Dr. Byrne and his team of engineers pioneered new techniques for providing nutrition to the preemies intravenously. During that time the intravenous requirement for copper, zinc and magnesium was identified. Dr Byrne designed and developed an incubator-monitor called the Infacare. This was noted in the 1973 Annual Edition of the Encyclopedia Americana for advances in medicine. These innovative mechanical devices helped premature infants to survive. Dr. Byrne explained that new, highly sensitive measurement protocols were needed to track the tiny infant’s health.
“For instance, premature infants have very small total quantities of blood. That required development of micro techniques to analyze blood for indicators of health or disease. These micro-techniques that were developed for sick babies are used for everyone. It was exciting for me to be able to participate in the development of what was then a brand-new field.”
Dr. Byrne co-founded the Life Guardian Foundation, of which he is President. Dr. Byrne is Past-President of the Catholic Medical Association (USA). Dr. Byrne served as President of the St. Louis Pediatric Society and has been a sought-after speaker about profound medical ethics issue. An infant born after only 24 weeks of gestation, whose electroencephalogram (EEG) was flat – which is interpreted as lacking any brainwaves – was saved by Dr. Byrne and went on to be a straight A student in school, build a brilliant career, and marry and become the father of three children.
Dr. Byrne has presented testimony on “life issues” to nine state legislatures beginning in 1967. He debated Dr. Kevorkian on “Cross-Fire” and has been interviewed on public television, including in Japan. Dr. Byrne participated in the British Broadcasting Corporation Documentary “Are the Donors Really Dead?” The ethics of extracting organs from persons who are (admittedly) not really dead, is contentious. Dr. Byrne’s position has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1979 and the Gonzaga law Review in 1982/83 (87 pages, 246 footnotes).
Dr. Byrne was a presenter at the First National Meeting of Nurses Association of the American eCollege of Obstetrics-Gynecology in Las Vegas, NV Dr. Byrne was a panelist on “Ethical Issues in the Care of the Small Premature” at the Annual American Medical Association meeting in 1978. He was the Guest Lecturer at the Fifth Annual Terence Cardinal Cooke Institute of Human Values in Medical Ethics of New York Medical College 1988; his topic was “Medical, Legal and Ethical Aspects of Brain Death.” Dr. Byrne was the opening speaker at the 11th Annual SIDS Awareness Day, sponsored by Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oral Roberts University School of Medicine, and the Oklahoma Chapter, NSIDSF, Inc. in Tulsa, OK.
Dr. Byrne was the invited presenter at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican in 2005; he was then invited in 2009 as the Presenter at the Research Council of Italy I segni della vita, La “morte cerebrale” è ancora vita? Signs of life: Is “brain death” still life? He was then invited to organize and be the principal presenter at the International Congress, the Boundaries of the Human Being at the time of the biotechnological Revolution, held at the Palazzo San Pio X, Via del’Ospedale, Rome Italy (2012). Dr Byrne was a co-organizer and presenter at John Paul Academy of Human Life and Family in Rome May 20-21, 2019.
Dr. Byrne has often worked with parents of college students who got into a car accident and ended up (as he put it) “at the mercies of a medical system that wants their organs for transplant.”
“If you end up unconscious and, on a ventilator, the doctors at the hospital treating you will declare that your death is imminent, and by law, they have to notify the Organ Procurement Organization (OPO). Dr. Byrne urges whoever doesn’t want that to happen, to explicitly document one’s refusal in writing.
Dr. Byrne is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics since 1963; American Medical Association since 1986; the Catholic Medical Association (formerly National Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Guilds) since 1984; the Ohio State Medical Association; the Ohio Perinatal Association; the Academy of Medicine of Toledo, and others.
Paul and Shirley Byrne were married for 48 years when Shirley’s life on earth ended on Christmas Day, December 25, 2005. They are the parents of 12, grandparents of 36, and great-grandparents of 5.
Dr. Byrne’s publications include:
Beyond Brain Death: The Case Against Brain Based Criteria For Human Death, co-edited by Michael M Potts, Professor of Philosophy (2001), is a provocative challenge to one of the most widely accepted conclusions of contemporary bioethics: the position that brain death marks the death of the human person. Eleven chapters by physicians, philosophers, and theologians present the case against brain-based criteria for human death. Each author believes that this position calls into question the moral acceptability of the transplantation of unpaired vital organs from brain-dead patients who have continuing function of the circulatory system.
Finis Vitae, Death: the Absence of Life, Conziglio Nazionale delle Ricerche pp 63-84, Rubbettino, Rome, Italy (2006)
Finis Vitae, Is “Brain Death” True Death? Conziglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Rubbettino, Rome, Italy, 2006; Life Guardian Foundation, (2009)
Brain Death – The Patient, The Physician, and Society. Gonzaga Law Review (1984)
Brain Death – An Opposing Viewpoint, JAMA (1979)
The Physician’s Responsibility toward Sacred Human Life, Linacre Quarterly, November (1986)
The Magnesium Load Test: II. Correlation of Clinical and Laboratory Data in Neonates, Clinical Pediatrics (1975)
Development of A Practical Disposable CPAP Head Bag. Pediatrics Research (1974)
Myocardial Infarction in the Perinatal Period with Long-Term Survival. Journal of Pediatrics (1966)