British government officials are considering a new program to encourage women to consider giving birth to babies diagnosed with fatal illnesses, rather than have an abortion, so that the babies’ organs can be harvested after they die.
The Express reports that transplant surgeons proposed the new measure at a British National Health System conference because of a massive shortage of organs for transplant. The group of surgeons argued that sick children in the UK are dying because organ transplants are not available, according to the reports.
The Sunday Times describes how the proposal would work:
Women pregnant with severely disabled babies could be supported by the NHS to carry the child to full term in order to increase the number of organs for donation.
Some defects or disorders, which mean a child cannot survive after birth, can be detected early in pregnancy. One defect, anencephaly, in which the child’s brain fails to develop, can be spotted by a scan as early as 12 weeks.
Under the proposals, pregnant women discovered to be carrying such babies would be supported through the remainder of their pregnancy, allowing the child’s organs to develop fully. They would give birth as normal and key organs would be removed from the baby once it had been certified dead.
About 230 babies with anencephaly are aborted every year in Britain. Only a dozen are born alive.
Over the past two years only 11 babies under two months old have become organ donors.
According to the Express, the option of organ donation would not be raised until the mother says she is certain that she wants to have an abortion. The NHS also said it would not encourage or pressure anyone to donate their baby’s organs.
The Daily Mail reports more on the proposal: “In some cases, where donation has been agreed, babies could be certified brain dead but their bodies kept alive by artificial ventilation. Surgeons could then remove organs from these so-called ‘heartbeat babies’ when they are fresh, maximising what can be used and the chance of successful transplant.”
An NHS committee has been established to explore the proposal and other ways to increase organ donations for children, the report states.
Many are concerned about the ethical implications of the proposal. While encouraging women to give birth to severely disabled babies rather than abort them is a good thing, the proposal comes with its own set of problems.
First, it treats human life as a commodity; and, second, it does not account for what would happen if the baby does not die soon after birth. While conditions such as anencephaly and Trisomy 18 often are fatal within a few hours after birth, some babies live for months or years with medical treatment. Under the new proposal, will these babies targeted for organ donations be given the same medical treatment as any other human being, or will they be left to die so that their organs can be harvested? The fact that women who have decided to have abortions will be the ones encouraged to consider donating their babies’ organs after birth seems to imply that these babies are unwanted and could be denied basic human rights.
Dr. Trevor Stammers, director of bioethics at St. Mary’s University, called the proposal “a ghoulish suggestion” in an statement to the news media.
“It would be frankly abhorrent if transplant doctors were to ask women whose unborn children have been diagnosed with severe defects to let their baby go to term for the sole reason that its body can be raided for its organs,” Stammers said. “The concept reduces the baby to nothing more than a utilitarian means to an end – a collection of spare parts – rather than respecting life for its own sake.”
“Yes, I know those organs can potentially save the lives of others, but at what cost to our humanity?” he continued.
An online poll at the Express on Tuesday afternoon showed more people opposed the proposal than supported it, with 42 percent saying “It’s awful and ethically wrong” and 42 percent saying “it’s up to the individual.”
The proposal comes on the heels of shocking undercover videos in America showing Planned Parenthood officials selling aborted babies’ body parts. The videos have lead to numerous state and federal investigations, as well as legislation to defund the abortion business of taxpayer dollars and ban the trafficking of aborted babies’ body parts in the U.S.