Organs replaced, euthanasia wishes honoured, good ethics

A little while ago, we drew attention to a well thought out idea by Julian Savulescu and Dominic Wilkinson, suggesting that being able to donate one’s organs while requesting euthanasia could give an added sense of meaning to a dignified death. We followed it up with a report on Tony Nicklinson, who was paralysed by a stroke in 2005, and wants the law in the UK to allow his wife to end his life so he can donate his organs. His legal team have been continuing the battle, hoping to use article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – which, as we suggested in our last blog, is likely to be an uphill struggle for anyone. Not surprisingly in our view, the DPP have now confirmed that Mrs Nicklinson will be charged with murder of she goes ahead.

Now the European study, Organ Procurement After Euthanasia: Belgian Experience, is hitting the headlines. Catholic anti-euthanasia activists are horrified, although they do point out that the procedure requires a patient to be hospitalised – another choice. A careful study of the protocols shows that abuse is not an issue – separate medical teams advocate for the patient, perform the euthanasia, and are separated from the donation-seeking teams. It is not, as some would have us believe, a ‘threat’ to disabled people. The will to live is so strong that people do not opt to die because somebody else has.

Rights of the disabled
For Mrs Nicklinson and her husband, the Belgian sanity is of little consolation. “We’re asking the Ministry of Justice why the law on murder is unfair. It discriminates against him because he is disabled. People say he’s trying to take the right to life away from disabled people, but he’s trying to give them rights. He wants the same right to self determination that everyone else has.”

Mr Nicklinson spells out a message, picking first one of several clusters of letters, and then an individual letter. He suffered a stroke in 2005 that left him almost completely paralysed and suffering from locked in syndrome. His mind remains sharp, but he can’t talk or move his body below the neck. He has an adapted computer he can use to painstakingly create messages on. He says: “The present law discriminates just because I am disabled. If I’d have known then what I know now I would have just let nature take its course.”

Organ Transplantation in Europe
– an overview
Transplant list criteria – NHS
Informed consent vs presumed consent – country comparison – BBC
Organ donation – an outline for general practitioners – Royal College
Register for organ donation now – NHS
Summary of the Human Tissue Act 2004 (Dept of Health)
Organ transplants – Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology
Human Tissue Act 2004 (in full)
British Organ Donor Society (charity website)
Ethics of Organ Transplantation – Center for Bioethics
Human organ and tissue transplantation (World Health Organisation)
Organ donation and public ethics – John Coggon (BMJ Blog)
(extra link added 20 April 2011) – a rebuttal of Wesley Smith’s argument against organ donation & voluntary euthanasia

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1 Response to Organs replaced, euthanasia wishes honoured, good ethics

  1. arjun says:

    Assisted suicide and euthanasia should become fundamental right for cancer patiant those humans who dying of cancer lose their life also their relatives and loved ones they only want pain less death they dont want suffering pallitive care dont controll all cancer pain specially break through pain chemotherapy also give suffering pain controll medicine also give discomfort so there is no point in living bed ridden dependent on nurses doctor no dignity in that so assisted suicide and euthanasia only can give them dignified death

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