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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Harvest euthanasia victims organs before they're dead, say Canadian doctors

18 September 2018

The proposal means the patient could be anaesthetised and his organs procured while he is still alive. 

The slippery slope is alive and well. 

Combining euthanasia and organ donation remains highly controversial, and is currently only permitted in Belgium and the Netherlands, both countries with notoriously lax euthanasia laws. However, two Canadian doctors and a bioethicist are now arguing for an even more extreme situation - taking organs from people who have chosen to end their lives through euthanasia while they are still alive. They are not even referring to cases of so-called 'brain-death', which many argue does not constitute actual death, but rather to cases where the patient is very far from being in that state.

Subverting the ethical foundations of medicine

In the September edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, Ontario doctors Ian Ball and Robert Sibbald and Robert Truog, a Harvard Medical School bioethicist, argue that it is ethical to change the guidelines to enable organ donation by euthanasia, if consent is obtained.

As Wesley J Smith explains, the "dead donor rule" - that a patient be declared dead before vital organs are procured and that the surgical transplant procedure not be the cause of the donor’s death - is the ethical foundation of transplant medicine.  

However, the authors urge that those rules be loosened in countries where euthanasia is legal:

"Although some patients may want to be sure that organ procurement won’t begin before they are declared dead, others may want not only a rapid, peaceful, and painless death, but also the option of donating as many organs as possible and in the best condition possible. Following the dead donor rule could interfere with the ability of these patients to achieve their goals. In such cases, it may be ethically preferable to procure the patient’s organs in the same way that organs are procured from brain-dead patients (with the use of general anesthesia to ensure the patient’s comfort)."

Pressuring vulnerable people

This means the patient could be anaesthetised and his organs procured while he is still alive. The article goes on: This would "require an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada, which defines medical assistance in dying as the administration of a 'substance' by a qualified provider. By this definition, organ retrieval is not an accepted cause of death."

Linking organ donation and euthanasia is already very worrying as it could lead vulnerable people to feel pressured to choose euthanasia in order to donate their organs. Under this proposal, they would not even be dead before they do so. The proposal helps to confirm how the logical slippery slope is alive and well when it comes to euthanasia.

News in brief:

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Comments (3)

  • christine

    19 September 2018, 3:40am

    Of COURSE this was the next predictable step in the dehumanizing of mankind!!

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  • Trevor Stammers

    19 September 2018, 7:24pm

    This is exactly the scenario that I anticipated would happen in my chapter in Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium (Cambridge University Press) due out in paperback in December this year. I would lay odds on Canada beating Belgium to it now as they seem to be not so much on a slippery slope as in ethical free fall with euthanasia.

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  • Michael Arthur McVeigh

    27 September 2018, 11:16pm

    The register for Donors is improving surely this will deter people from getting on the register...

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