With a shortage of organ donors in Europe, Belgian doctors have a novel solution: patients with unbearable suffering donate their organs after voluntary euthanasia. This suggestion was put forward at the 21st Conference for General Thoracic Surgery in Birmingham, England, in May.
A paper presented by doctors from The University Hospitals, Leuven (see abstract 0-099) suggested that euthanized patients could significantly boost the number of deceased donors. The authors state that in Belgium "euthanasia donors accounted for 12.8% of all lung DCD’s". They observe that "immediate post-transplant graft function and long-term outcome in recipients was excellent." Furthermore, it is believed that patients will see this as a great opportunity for a final act of altruism. “More euthanasia donors are to be expected with more public awareness,” they say.
The 12.8% were actually 6 patients. Three of them had severe neuromuscular disease and 3 were mentally ill. They had all made an explicit request to donate their organs. The transplant specialists stressed that the euthanasia and the transplant were performed by two separate and unrelated teams.
Conservative bioethicist Wesley Smith has attacked the proposal, stating that there is "nothing more dangerous than making mentally ill and despairing disabled people believe their deaths have greater value than their lives".