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Uproar over NHS proposal to harvest damaged babies' organs

15 March 2016

The proposal was raised at a meeting of the British Transplantation Society

An NHS proposal to ask mothers to carry damaged or severely disabled babies to term, so that doctors can harvest their organs, has been met with outrage.

During the annual meeting of the British Transplantation Society in Glasgow, at least one doctor proposed asking mothers to not have abortions in order to make organs available after birth, according to multiple news sources.

Transplant surgeon Niaz Ahmad, of St James's University Hospital in Leeds, said: "We are looking at rolling it out as a viable source of organ transplantation nationally.

"A number of staff in the NHS are not aware these organs can be used. They need to be aware. These can be transplanted, they work, and work long-term."

'Ghoulish' proposal

Dr Trevor Stammers, director for bioethics at St Mary's University, London, voiced grave concerns at the proposal, saying:

"It is a ghoulish suggestion that can only undermine public confidence in transplantation - one of the greatest medical advances of my lifetime.

"Raiding the bodies of children born only for their organs will further tarnish the profession."

Dystopian science fiction

The Mail on Sunday argues that this proposal is all the more chilling because it echoes dystopian science fiction thrillers:

The proposal to harvest babies' organs has parallels with the sinister plot of the acclaimed 2005 novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

The book was made into a film of the same name starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield.

The story centres around students at a fictional boarding school called Hailsham who, it emerges, are actually clones, created and reared to provide vital organ donations to prolong the lives of others.

At the school, they are strongly encouraged to look after their health and smoking is regarded as taboo.

Towards the end of the book, when they are still relatively young, they go through cycles of 'donations', and once their organs are harvested, they die, or 'complete'.

The student clones are portrayed as understanding and accepting of this without question, and they are largely preoccupied with trying to live their short lives to the full and attempting to find ways to prolong them.

NHS officials have since denied that they are seriously considering this idea as a way to increase the number of available organs. SPUC is investigating.

SPUC comment

In the meantime, SPUC bioethicist Anthony McCarthy says:

"Babies should be spared abortion because they are babies - not because they are useful to others if taken to term.

"It is one thing for the baby to be treasured during life, then used for organ donation after he or she has truly died and the parents have said goodbye. It is something quite different for the baby to be treated as valuable only as means to an end, not as someone's son or daughter whose life is precious however brief that life may be.

"Lethal discrimination against the unborn has undermined the dignity of the disabled and dying after birth as well. In that context it is perhaps unsurprising that sick babies are not seen as valuable in themselves when it comes to organ harvesting."

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Comments (2)
  • David Prentis

    15 March 2016, 8:43pm

    It is of course cynical to ask mothers to carry their handicapped baby to term rather than purely as a source of organ spare parts. On the other hand it also happens that babies, presumed handicapped, are aborted and discovered to have been healthy. It also happens that parents who had been afraid of looking after a handicapped child discover that they are capable after all and that the child gives them happiness despite the handicap. Even if the child dies very soon after birth, the parents will not have to bear the burden of guilt of the abortion, will experience the joy of seeing their child and taking proper leave and providing a proper burial.
    Even though the doctors are only concerned cynically with harvesting spare parts - this attitude is the result of decades of killing innocent children - it does mean in practice that they will stop pressurising mothers to abort their presumed handicapped babies. In this case lives will be saved. If the child then dies, it will a decision of the parents whether to agree to the donation of their child's organs.
    Even though the proposal is tactless, it will in fact save lives by preventing some abortions and the accompanying guilt, so it should be supported.

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  • Catmandu

    17 March 2016, 11:06pm

    This barbarism is no different than the barbarism of killing a ten-week, ten-day or four-month Unborn child. Killing Unborn children defies reason, compassion and truth. The only thing that makes this more scandalous is that they are asking a "suffering" mother to continue suffering, not for her benefit or her child's benefit, but for the sake of medical ghouls who use a distortion of compassion, a form of cannibalism, in fact, to pedal their own interests.

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