Doctors are Increasingly Euthanizing Patients to Harvest Their Organs

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

My very first anti-euthanasia column, published in Newsweek (June 27, 1993 in Human Exceptionalism), warned that societal acceptance of assisted suicide/euthanasia would eventually include organ harvesting “as a plum to society.” I was called an alarmist and a fear-monger, but alas, I was right. In Belgium and the Netherlands, mentally ill and disabled people are killed in hospitals at their request, and then, their bodies are harvested — with success of the procedures written up with all due respect in organ-transplant medical journals.

Our closest cultural cousins in Canada are enthusiastically following the same utilitarian path, not only allowing organ harvesting to be conjoined with euthanasia, but “medically assisted death” is being boosted increasingly as “a boon.” Note the celebratory lede in this Ottawa Citizen story:

“Ontarians who opt for medically assisted death (MAiD) are increasingly saving or improving other people’s lives by also including organ and tissue donation as part of their final wishes.

In the first 11 months of 2019, MAiD patients in the province accounted for 18 organ and 95 tissue donors, a 14 percent increase over 2018 and a 109 percent increase over 2017. (Figures for December 2019 are not yet available.)

According to Trillium Gift of Life Network, which oversees organ and tissue donation in Ontario, the 113 MAiD-related donations in 2019 accounted for five percent of overall donations in Ontario, a share that has also been increasing. In 2018, MAiD-related donations made up 3.6 percent of the province’s total donations, and in 2017, just 2.1 percent.”

Many of these killed organ donors will not have been imminently dying. They will also generally not have been provided suicide-prevention services as the suicidal ill and disabled who ask for euthanasia are increasingly abandoned to the “death with dignity” mindset in Canada.

It doesn’t even have to be the patient’s idea. Trillium Gift of Life Network, Ontario’s donation organization, actively solicits the organs of those soon to be killed by doctors!

“Canada decriminalized medically assisted death in 2016, through Trillium, immediately moved to the forefront of organ and tissue donation through MAiD, becoming the first jurisdiction in the world to proactively reach out to those who had been approved for assisted death to discuss donation. When a death is imminent, whether through a hospital or MAiD, Trillium must by law be notified.

And, as part of high-quality end-of-life care, we make sure that all patients and families are provided with the information they need and the opportunity to make a decision on whether they wish to make a donation,” Trillium CEO Ronnie Gavsie says. “That just follows the logical protocol under the law and the humane approach for those who are undergoing medical assistance in dying. And it’s the right thing to do for those on the wait list.”

The clear message being sent to suicidal ill and disabled Canadians — with the active support of the organ transplant community — is that their deaths can have greater value to Canada than their lives. In other words, organ donation as an offshoot of euthanasia has indeed been defined “as a plum to society.”

Someday, Canada will probably dispense with the euthanasia part altogether and go straight to killing by organ harvesting — already being proposed in bioethics and medical journals. That would make for the more viable organs, don’t you know. Once one gets past what bioethicists denigrate as “the yuck factor,” there is indisputable logic to that idea, which we could call fruit from a legally poisonous tree.

Those with eyes to see, let them see.

[Wesley J. Smith, J.D., is a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture and a bioethics attorney who blogs at Human Exceptionalism. This article was posted at on January 7, 2020.]


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