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."
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.
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."