The Corner

Politics & Policy

Canada Conjoining Euthanasia/Organ Donation

In my first anti-euthanasia column, published in Newsweek in 1993, I warned that eventually medicalized killing/suicide would be conjoined with organ harvesting “as a plum to society.”

Slippery slope argument!” my detractors yelled at me. “Alarmist!” It will never happen!” You get the drift.

Of course, it did happen. In Belgium doctors kill disabled and mentally ill people and once dead, with consent, their bodies are harvested. Ditto, the Netherlands. 

Then, some of the same detractors who called me alarmist, changed their tune to applaud the conjoining, because you know, CHOICE! After all, they want to die, so why not let society receive the plum?

When Canada’s Supreme Court imposed a nation-wide euthanasia right on the country and most Canadians enthusiastically swallowed that hemlock policy, I warned that our northern neighbors would soon join the crowd. 

I thought it would require an explicit law. It didn’t, and it is not only happening, but the medical establishment is working to make it more common. From the CBC story:

The medical system is working through logistical issues and ethical concerns that don’t come up for non-MAID [“medical assistance in dying,” Canada’s euphemism for lethal injection euthanasia] donors.

For one thing, the dying process becomes more medicalized. Patients need to undergo sometimes uncomfortable and inconvenient medical tests to see if their tissues and organs are viable for transplant.

If someone is getting medical assistance in dying and wants to donate their organs, they have to be in a transplant-capable hospital, close to an operating room.

‘We’re trying to reduce the impact of organ donation on the last few hours of their life. We want it to be a time they enjoy with their friends and family and leaves everyone with lasting memories, not of a hospital,’ says Dr. Adrian Robertson, medical director of Transplant Manitoba’s Gift of Life program. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)…

“Most patients would prefer to die at home,” Robertson says. “So this is an extra burden to the patient. That’s explained to them, and in some ways signifies their interest in donation that they’re willing to forgo that part of the beauty of medical assistance in dying and take on this extra burden of donation.”

Part of the burden could be refraining from alcohol and recreational drugs, which would be part of the assessment and consent process.

This is awful. These people should be given suicide prevention services. At the very least, nothing should be done that would encourage the decision to be killed.

Instead, conjoining organ donation with being killed sends the insidious and subversive message that the deaths of these patients have greater value than their lives.

It will get even worse when Canada explicitly joins Netherlands/Belgium to allow psychiatric patients to be killed by their doctors. Yes, yes, I know: “Alarmist! Slippery Slope arguer! It will never happen!” 

Then, when it all comes to pass: ”That’s GOOD, because, you know, CHOICE!”

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