“Organs have been harvested from around forty individuals who have undergone euthanasia” in Belgium since 2005. These patients offered their organs spontaneously. According to Professor Jean-Bernard Otte, a liver transplant surgeon and member of the Ethics Committee of the Saint-Luc Clinics who adopts a “utilitarian” approach to organ donation, this constitutes “an increasingly significant potential organ source”.
During a lecture at Belgium’s Royal Academy of Medicine on 20 February 2018, he “outlined the question raised by the Saint-Luc Ethics Committee in terms of how doctors broach the subject of organ donation with their patients as soon as the latter’s request for euthanasia is approved and, of course, provided that the disease culminating in euthanasia is compatible with organ donation”. As with any euthanasia request, patients have the right to revoke their consent up until the last moment.
During the meeting, an anaesthetist pointed out that, in order to guarantee the quality of the organs, the option of “extracting the organs under general anaesthesia, prior to euthanasia” is under consideration. Although the suggestion met with a luke-warm response since it places a heavy burden on surgeons and deprives families of being present when their loved ones draw their last breath, thus facilitating the mourning process, it nevertheless shows that, in Belgium “the subject of post-euthanasia organ harvesting appears to give food for thought (…), to the point where it is recommended to medical colleagues who, in turn, can suggest it to their patients”.
Institut européen de bioéthique (27/02/2018)