Human Exceptionalism

Belgium Combines Organ Donation Presumed Consent, Euthanasia

A just published article in the Journal of Medical Ethics argues for allowing killing by organ removal as a form of euthanasia and organ donation. More, over at The Corner.

The authors mention that Belgium has “presumed consent” for organ donation. From the piece:

When a patient is determined dead on the basis of either circulatory or neurological criteria, the treating physician is legally allowed to remove his organs for transplantation.

In case of donation, three non-treating physicians, who are not involved in the transplantation procedure, should independently determine death.

The law explicitly states that relatives should be enabled to say farewell to the deceased as soon as possible after the donation procedure

In the immoral utilitarian milieu that now reigns in Belgium, this means that that doctors could look upon all “suffering” patients as potential organ suppliers.

That could easily influence how they discuss treatment options, and lead to subtle persuasion for euthanasia–without discussing the organ issue.

The authors also suggest that doctors should be able to recommend organ donation to euthanasia requesters, and all doubts about pressure or emotional coercion can be remedied simply by assuring the public all is honorable:

One, however, needs to avoid the public having the perception that anyone who is ill and willing to donate his organs will be able to undergo euthanasia, or that a physician would motivate a patient to undergo euthanasia because of organ donation possibility.

The public needs to have confidence in the ability of a physician to judge objectively and acknowledge that strict legal criteria and boundaries regarding euthanasia and organ donation exist.

Here’s the problem: Once doctors and society accepts the killing-is-an-acceptable-answer-to-suffering premise of euthanasia, eventually it won’t matter if those deemed to have a life not worth living are herded toward euthanasia–particularly if their organs are harvestableAfter all, there are people who could have better lives who need those livers and hearts!  

If you believe euthanasia and organ harvesting can be conjoined without adverse impacting society’s adherence to the intrinsic equal dignity of human life, I have a beautiful orange bridge that links San Francisco to Marin County to sell at a bargain rate. Interested?

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