Thursday, January 27, 2011

Belgian doctors harvesting organs from disabled euthanasia donors

by Rebecca Millette

BELGIUM, January 26, 2011 ( – Belgian doctors are not only harvesting organs from disabled euthanasia donors, but are publicly advocating the practice and setting down guidelines for it.

Doctors Dirk Ysebaert, Dirk Van Raemdonck, and Michel Meurisse, of the University Hospitals Of Antwerp, Leuven, and Liège, presented a PowerPoint presentation at a conference organized by the Belgian Royal Medical Academy in December, in which they advocate “Organ Donation After Euthanasia.”

Bioethics writer and lawyer, Wesley J. Smith, who drew attention to the presentation in his First Things blog “Secondhand Smoke,” said he has been expecting this “organ harvesting shoe to drop” for years. 

From mercy killing of the terminally ill, it is merely “a hop, skip and a jump to killing people who don’t have a good ‘quality’ of life, perhaps with the prospect of organ harvesting thrown in as a plum to society,” said Smith. 

In May, Smith brought to light an article in the journal Bioethics advocating organ transplant after euthanasia.  He said it was perhaps the first time the question of “organ donation euthanasia” was not simply asked, but advocated. 

He also previously reported the story of a woman in Belgium whose request for euthanasia and subsequent organ donation had been “accommodated.”  “The woman in question,” wrote Smith, “was not terminally ill, but in a “locked-in” state, that is, fully conscious and completely paralyzed.  She wanted to die – a desire accommodated by her doctors.” 

“I can think of few more dangerous activities then to convince people with disabilities – and society – that their deaths have greater value than their lives.  That pebble with which I was concerned has grown into a massive boulder that is generating tidal waves of harm,” said Smith of the recent public presentation by the Belgian doctors.

The December PowerPoint presentation lays out guidelines for organ donation in cases of euthanasia, saying that there must be a “strict separation” between the euthanasia request, the euthanasia procedure, and the organ procurement. 

The procedure must be documented with informed consent from the donor and relatives, write the doctors, and the euthanasia should be performed by a neurologist/psychiatrist and two doctors.  Organs may only be retrieved after a clinical diagnosis of death by three physicians.  Finally, physician and nursing staff should participate only on a voluntary basis.

Charts in presentation say that of the 705 people who died through euthanasia (officially) in 2008, 20% were people suffering from neuromuscular disorders, whose organs are of relatively high quality for transplanting to others.

The presentation concludes by asserting the potential of the procedure, that “organ donation after euthanasia is feasible” and a “strong patient’s wish to donate cannot be denied.”

1 comment:

  1. As a blood and platelet donor, and a VOLUNTARY member of the bone marrow donor program (one of the donations you can make while alive, your own bone marrow will recover)
    AND as a registered donor of "all needed orhgans and tissues" after death. i am DEEPLY offended by the mere concept of euthanasia for organ donation.

    as bad as euthanasia is (and it is GOING to lead to the hardening of the soul and heart of the doctors and nurses who participate, even if they start in "clear cases") when you add in the sheer desperation of the innumerable people on organ waiting lists world wide, you can see how easily this would lead to a nightmare.

    we already ban the SALE of organs.. i cannot sell you one of my kidneys, for instance, even though i have two! why give hospitals and doctors MORE of an incentive to "terminate" someone early while their organs are still good, instead of waiting until they "waste" them by dying naturally