Professors Argue Its OK to Euthanize Patients to Harvest Their Organs

Opinion   |   Alex Schadenberg   |   Sep 11, 2018   |   4:27PM   |   Washington, DC

The first article that I wrote on organ donation was August 14, 2008 when I commented on an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) by Robert Troug and Franklin Miller.

Troug and Miller suggested that it is ethical to intentionally cause the death of a person, for the purpose of transplanting organs, if consent is obtained and when the person is unlikely to neurologically recover.

The current issue of the NEJM (Sept 6, 2018) features an article by Ian Ball, Robert Sibbald and Robert Troug. They argue that it is ethical to change the guidelines to enable organ donation by euthanasia, if consent is obtained. The authors of the article suggest that legalizing euthanasia creates new pathways for organ donation. The article states:

Although some patients may want to be sure that the organ procedure 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 obtain their goals. In such cases it may be 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).

Is the person really dead if they require anesthesia? The article continues:

Doing so 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 donation is not an accepted cause of death.

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The authors are promoting organ donation by euthanasia. They argue that organ donation by euthanasia is only another method of killing.

The problem begins when society permits doctors, or others, to kill people. If euthanasia by organ donation becomes an accepted way to kill, then sadly, euthanasia will be promoted as a benefit to society creating another pressure to die. Note: Alex Schadenberg is the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and you can read his blog here.