By Simon Caldwell
People killed by euthanasia in Belgium are having their organs harvested for transplant surgery, a new report has revealed.
Doctors are impressed by the superior condition of lungs taken from people who killed by lethal injection compared to those extracted from those killed in accidents.
Surgeons in Leuven between 2007 and 2009 successfully transplanted four pairs of lungs from people who died from euthanasia.
Cancer victims cannot be donors so the cases involved one person with an ‘unbearable mental disorder’ and the other three people suffering from ‘a debilitating benign disease such as a neurological or muscular disorder’. All of the donors had given their consent.
The cases were detailed in a report in a medical journal called Applied Cardiopulmonary Pathophysiology.
The authors of the study, Initial Experience with Transplantation of Lungs Recovered From Donors After Euthanasia, insisted that doctors were acting strictly within Belgian guidelines on euthanasia, which was legalised in 2002.
They reveal how ‘donors were admitted to the hospital a few hours before the planned euthanasia procedure’.
‘A central venous line was placed in a room adjacent to the operating room,’ said the report by D. Van Raemdonck et al, a team of surgeons from Leuven
‘Donors were heparinised [injected with an anticoagulant] immediately before a cocktail of drugs was given by the treating physician who agreed to perform the euthanasia.
‘The patient was announced dead on cardiorespiratory criteria by three independent physicians as required by Belgian legislation for every organ donor.
‘The deceased was then rapidly transferred, installed on the operating table, and intubated.’
The team found that the lungs were not traumatised by an ‘agonal’ phase seen in people killed by serious head injuries, the most common type of transplant donor.
The paper showed that about 23.5 per cent of lung transplant donors in Belgium and 2.8 per cent of heart transplant donors are killed by euthanasia.
It revealed that Eurotransplant, a co-ordination group for transplants in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovenia, is now devising elaborate protocols for ‘organ donation and transplantation after euthanasia’.
Dr Peter Saunders, of Care Not Killing, an umbrella group of more than 50 British medical, disability and religious charities opposed to euthanasia, said he was shocked by the report.
‘I was amazed at how nonchalantly the issue was dealt with as if killing patients and then harvesting their organs was the most natural thing in the world,’ he said.
‘Given that half of all euthanasia cases in Belgium are involuntary it must be only a matter of time before the organs are taken from patients who are euthanised without their consent.
‘The matter of fact way the retrieval process is described in the paper is particularly chilling and shows the degree of collaboration that is necessary between the euthanasia team and the transplant surgeons – prep them for theatre next to the operating room, then kill them and wheel them in for organ retrieval. All in a day’s work in Brave New Belgium.’
The report comes just a year after researchers found a high proportion of deaths classified as euthanasia in Belgium have involved patients who have not requested their lives to be ended by a doctor.
A fifth of nurses interviewed by researchers from the Canadian Medical Association Journal admitted that they had been involved in the euthanasia of a patient – but also found that nearly half of these – 120 of 248 – admitted to participating in ‘terminations without request or consent’.