December 5, 2022

Belgian doctors harvest high quality organs from euthanased patients

Participation is voluntary A group of Belgian doctors are harvesting “high quality” organs from patients who have been euthanased. This is not a secret project, but one which they described openly at a conference organised
by the Belgian Royal Medical Academy in December. 

In a PowerPoint presentation, Dirk Ysebaert, Dirk Van Raemdonck, Michel Meurisse, of the University Hospitals Of Antwerp, Leuven And Liège, showed that about 20% of the 705 people who died through euthanasia (officially) in 2008 were suffering from neuromuscular disorders whose organs are relatively high quality for transplanting to other patients. This represents a useful pool of organs which could help to remedy a shortage of organs in Belgium (as everywhere else).

It is not clear from the presentation how many patients participated in their scheme. However, in a 2008 report, Belgian doctors explained that three patients had been euthanased between 2005 and 2007 and had agreed to donate their organs.

Euthanasia for organ transplant is a bit different from normal euthanasia, the doctors say, because they prefer that
patients die in hospital rather than at home.

They have developed a protocol for the procedure. There has to be a strict separation between the euthanasia
request, the euthanasia procedure, and the  organ procurement. The donor and his (or her) relatives have to consent. The euthanasia is performed by a neurologist or psychiatrist and two house physicians. Organ retrieval begins after clinical diagnosis of death by the three physicians. And, of course, staff participation is voluntary. ~

thanks to Carinne Brochier, of l’Institut Européen de Bioéthique, in Brussels.