“If it coincides with their values, it would be discriminatory not to make this option available to those who have chosen to die,” explains Dr. Matthew Weiss, Medical Director of organ donation at Transplant Québec.
Since 2015, few organs have been harvested from euthanasia patients in Quebec. Transplant Québec nevertheless believes that this is a “positive” experience and wants “to change course and (…) adopt a more favourable policy vis-à-vis organ donation following final end-of-life care” and “review its official position regarding this delicate issue between now and the summer”.
In 2016, however, the Transplant Québec Ethics Committee published a statement in which it claimed that any reference to organ donation in connection with medically assisted dying was “likely to taint the image of this altruistic procedure”. The statement pointed out the following: “Some people might think that doctors give their patients the option of medically assisted dying to obtain their organs”. Based on this opinion, the only “ethically acceptable” donations would be those where the request is initiated by the patient.
This is precisely the point that Dr. Weiss wants to change. He hopes that, by authorising treating physicians to suggest organ donation, Transplant Québec could increase the number of organs available to patients on transplant waiting lists by 10 to 15%. “Assisted dying will save lives”…
Quebec is one of the few countries in the world where this type of donation is already carried out. The first case was recorded in Belgium in 2005 (and there have been around twenty similar cases since then). Twenty-four cases were reported in the Netherlands between 2012 and 2016, and around twelve in Canada.
Conditions are strict – patients must undergo additional medical tests before dying and agree to die in hospital. Furthermore, the organ must be harvested as soon as possible after death. Relatives would therefore have little time to spend with the deceased. “Medicines are used to trigger death in a medically assisted dying context. We therefore don’t have much time to harvest the organs. The patient must be close to the operating theatre and their family must be informed of the procedures in advance,” explains Transplant Québec’s Medical Director.
For further reading:
Euthanasia for organ donations: who will stop the system gone wild?
 Euthanasia and organ donation: Belgium continues to push the boundaries even further
Le Devoir, Isabelle Paré (29/03/2018)