OTTAWA, June 21, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― Organs are being harvested from some people who have been euthanized in Canada, creating an ethical situation that some critics say amounts to a conflict of interest.
On June 18, The Wall Street Journal published an article by law professor Frank Buckley revealing that “about 30 euthanasia patients in Canada have donated their organs after death since 2016.”
Buckley noted that the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has issued guidelines for how the harvesting of organs from people who elect to be killed by medical practitioners should work. Despite some hand-wringing about ethics, the June 3 document allows doctors to canvas their vulnerable, suicidal patients for their organs.
“The grim document describes how the organ donation and euthanasia decisions might be disentangled, but allows doctors to raise the possibility of organ donation with their vulnerable, suicidal patients,” he wrote.
“It also clarifies that organ removal should not begin until the patient is medically deceased (sic) and the heart has stopped beating.”
Buckley revealed, however, that “two Canadian medical researchers and a Harvard bioethicist” had published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine last year arguing that organs would be of better quality if they were removed from donors while they were still alive.
This, naturally, would kill the donor, but presumably the donor would not mind, were he or she intent on dying anyway.
“Key points” in the CMA guidance include the advice that organ donation by those who choose active or passive euthanasia should be an option and that patients should be discouraged from opting for euthanasia because they wish to donate their organs. This, the documents suggests, can be done by not mentioning organ donation to the patient until he or she has opted for the “medically assisted” death.
However, Alex Schadenberg of Canada’s Euthansia Prevention Coalition believes that accepting organs from euthanasia victims will indeed lead to death by organ donation.
“The acceptance of organ donation after euthanasia leads to the pressure to do euthanasia by organ donation,” he told LifeSiteNews.
“The concept that organ donation and euthanasia can be separated is false. The person will be prepared for the organ donation and the euthanasia simultaneously to make the procedure most effective.”
The 2016 legalization of active euthanasia in Canada rendered the old guidelines around organ donation, published in 2006, inadequate for dealing with the issues around fully conscious patients offering their organs to the same people who will bring about their death.
“The current Canadian guideline recommendations for donation after circulatory determination of death, published in 2006, address the conventional scenario of an unconscious, incapable, critically ill patient not expected to survive the withdrawal of life-sustaining measures (WLSM),” an introduction to the new guidelines observed.
“The ability of donors to give first-person consent for both MAID (Medical assistance in dying) or WLSM and organ donation creates emotional and moral challenges for healthcare professionals, and raises unprecedented ethical and practical challenges for patients, families, health care professionals and institutions, and society.”
Anticipating some resistance from the healthcare community, the guidelines caution that suggestions that patients donate should first from the patients.
“All eligible, medically suitable patients should be given an opportunity to consider organ and tissue donation, consistent with provincial or territorial required referral legislation, regional policy, and ethical principles of respect for autonomy and self-determination,” they read.
“However, this must be reconciled with regional values and healthcare culture. Initially, some jurisdictions might prefer to begin with systems that respond only to patient-initiated requests.”
The guidelines note the possibility of coercion, but at the same time are clear that the patient’s wish to donate is paramount:
“Physicians, MAID assessors, and WLSM or MAID providers should be cognizant of the risk of coercion or undue influence on patients to donate their organs; however, the patient’s altruistic intentions should not be discouraged,” the document reads.
Even if the patient to be passively euthanized should lose the ability to change his or her mind about organ donation before death, the guidelines rule that the organs should be harvested.
If a conscious and competent patient provides first-person consent to donate after WLSM but subsequently loses decisional capacity, there is a strong case for proceeding with donation after WLSM because the patient was adequately informed about the decision by a trained donation expert and gave consent in the context of their illness and an anticipated imminent death,” the guidelines rule.
However, if a patient loses the ability to change his or her mind before a scheduled active euthanasia, they may not be killed.
“Slippery-slope arguments are often unpersuasive,” Buckley wrote.
“Do this bad thing, and that really bad thing will necessarily follow. But in this case the really bad things are a tippy-toe down the slippery slope,” he continued.
“That should give legislators in states like New York pause before they move to legalize euthanasia. Medical professionals should not be given the incentive to see their patients as sacks of valuable organs rather than as human beings.”