November 26, 2022

Belgian transplant surgeons use lungs from euthanased patients

Using organs from euthanased patients seem to have become a well established procedure in Belgium, only nine years after it was legalized. A press release from a team at a hospital in Leuven announced yesterday that it had successfully transplanted lungs from four euthanased patients between 2007 and 2009.

Using
organs from euthanased patients seem to have become a well established procedure
in Belgium, only nine years after it was legalized. A press
release
from a team at a hospital in Leuven announced yesterday that it had
successfully transplanted lungs from four euthanased patients between 2007 and
2009.

In
an article in the journal Applied
Cardiopulmonary Pathophysiology
, the authors observe that the quality of
the lungs from euthanased patients seems superior to those obtained from brain
dead donors and donations after cardiac death. “In contrast to these donors, euthanasia
donors do not experience an agonal phase before circulatory arrest as seen in donors
dying from hypoxemia or from cardiogenic or hypovolemic shock.”

Apparently
a number of patients who request euthanasia want to donate their organs.
However, since many of them have cancer, the organs are not suitable. Three of
the euthanased patients who did donate suffered from “a debilitating benign
disease such as a neurological or muscular disorder”. The other was not ill at
all, but had an “unbearable mental disorder”.

The
authors were at pains to stress that they acted strictly within the guidelines
for euthanasia in Belgium. All of the patients gave their consent.

Organ donation after euthanasia in
Belgium is well organized. Eurotransplant,
a coordination group for transplants in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany,
Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovenia, has already developed elaborate
protocols for “organ donation and transplantation
after euthanasia”.

Michael Cook
Belgium
euthanasia
organ donation