April 14, 2024

Belgian doctors using organs from euthanased patients


the archives: during research on another story, I stumbled across a very
helpful article in The Atlantic about “euthanasia myths” by an eminent American
bioethicist. It dates from 1997, but nothing in the intervening years has altered
his assertions:

Myth No. 1: It is primarily advances in biomedical
technology—especially life-sustaining technology—that have created
unprecedented public interest in physician-assisted suicide and voluntary
euthanasia… [But really] Patients who are being kept alive by technology and
want to end their lives already have a recognized constitutional right to stop
any and all medical interventions, from respirators to antibiotics. They do not
need physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Myth No. 2: Legalizing physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia
is widely endorsed… [But really] The most accurate characterization of the
survey data is that a significant majority of Americans oppose
physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia except in the limited case of a terminally ill patient with
uncontrollable pain.

Myth No. 3: It is terminally ill patients with
uncontrollable pain who are most likely to be interested in physician-assisted
suicide or euthanasia… [But really] No study has ever shown that pain plays a
major role in motivating patient requests for physician-assisted suicide or

Myth No. 4: The experience with euthanasia in the
Netherlands shows that permitting physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia
will not eventually get out of hand… [But really] The Netherlands studies fail
to demonstrate that permitting physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia will
not lead to the nonvoluntary euthanasia of children, the demented, the mentally
ill, the old, and others.

Who was the author? Obama healthcare
adviser Dr Ezechiel Emanuel, a man who was unfairly dubbed “Doctor Death”
during the “death panel” controversy in 2009. It’s just a good reminder of how
dangerous it is to vilify people because they support a particular policy or a
particular politician. Many bioethical issues are very complex and it’s not easy to untangle them in 30-second sound bites. 

There are several very interesting stories this week. Our lead story deals with euthanasia in Belgium, where transplant surgeons are using organs from euthanased patients. Now there’s a death panel!


Michael Cook