Doctors worry how organ donations will be affected by Supreme Court ruling on assisted suicide
"As the nation awaits legalized doctor-assisted death, the transplant community is grappling with a potential new source of life-saving organs — offered by patients who have chosen to die.
"Some surgeons say every effort should be made to respect the dying wishes of people seeking assisted death, once the Supreme Court of Canada ruling comes into effect next year, including the desire to donate their organs.
"But the prospect of combining two separate requests — doctor-assisted suicide and organ donation — is creating profound unease for others. Some worry those contemplating assisted suicide might feel a societal pressure to carry through with the act so that others might live, or that it could undermine struggling efforts to increase Canada’s mediocre donor rate.
“Given the controversy and divided opinion regarding physician-assisted suicide in Canada, I don’t think we are anywhere near being ready to procure the organs of patients who might choose this path,” said Dr. Andreas Kramer, medical director of the Southern Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Program in Calgary.
“I think there is a legitimate possibility that advocating aggressively for this could compromise the trust that the Canadian public has in current organ-donation processes,” Dr. Kramer said.
"Organ harvesting after doctor-assisted death is already a reality in Belgium, which became the second country in the world, after the Netherlands, to legalize voluntary euthanasia in 2002.
"In 2011, Belgian surgeons reported the first lung transplants using lungs recovered from four donors put to death by lethal injection. All — two patients with multiple sclerosis, one with a neurological disorder and the other a mental illness — explicitly and voluntarily expressed their wish to become an organ donor after their request for euthanasia was granted, the team reported.
“We now have experience with seven lung donors after euthanasia,” Dr. Dirk van Raemdonck, a surgeon from University Hospitals Leuven, told the National Post. “All recipients are doing well.”
Lungs, as well as kidneys and livers, have been retrieved and transplanted from a total of 17 euthanasia donors, Dr. van Raemdonck said. The results will be presented next week at the annual meeting of the Belgian Transplantation Society in Brussels."