A group of Belgian doctors are harvesting “high quality” organs from patients who have been euthanased. This is not a secret project, but one which they described openly at a conference organised by the Belgian Royal Medical Academy in December.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Dirk Ysebaert, Dirk Van Raemdonck, Michel Meurisse, of the University Hospitals Of Antwerp, Leuven And Liège, showed that about 20% of the 705 people who died through euthanasia (officially) in 2008 were suffering from neuromuscular disorders whose organs are relatively high quality for transplanting to other patients. This represents a useful pool of organs which could help to remedy a shortage of organs in Belgium (as everywhere else).
It is not clear from the presentation how many patients participated in their scheme. However, in a 2008 report, Belgian doctors explained that three patients had been euthanased between 2005 and 2007 and had agreed to donate their organs.
Euthanasia for organ transplant is a bit different from normal euthanasia, the doctors say, because they prefer that patients die in hospital rather than at home.
They have developed a protocol for the procedure. There has to be a strict separation between the euthanasia request, the euthanasia procedure, and the organ procurement. The donor and his (or her) relatives have to consent. The euthanasia is performed by a neurologist or psychiatrist and two house physicians. Organ retrieval begins after clinical diagnosis of death by the three physicians. And, of course, staff participation is voluntary.
This seems like the ultimate in utilitarian compassion: make paralysed people feel useful by killing them for their organs. It’s something to look forward to if euthanasia ever get legalised. ~ thanks to Carinne Brochier, of l'Institut Européen de Bioéthique, in Brussels.