OTTAWA, Ontario (ChurchMilitant.com) - Surgeons in Canada are harvesting organs from the corpses of the euthanized, raising questions about the ethics of the practice, and how long conscience rights can endure in the country.
Canada's law legalizing physician-assisted death went into effect last June. It allows for euthanasia and assisted suicide when a patient is "enduring suffering" under a "grievous and irremediable" condition, and for whom death is "reasonably foreseeable."
Implementation of the law has also raised problems over an issue the law's authors scarcely anticipated: organ harvesting.
Many who choose to medically kill themselves also elect to donate their organs. Since the law passed, 26 people in Ontario have chosen to donate tissue or organs, mostly corneas, skin, heart valves, bones and tendons.
This raises ethical issues beyond those already posed by the suicide regime. Jennifer A. Chandler of the University of Ottawa has noted that organ harvesting turns physician-assisted murder into an opportunity not only to avoid cost of medical treatment, but as a way of making money off the valuable organs within the patient. It also creates conflicts of interest among family members, who may be in a position to sway patients towards suicide while simultaneously standing to benefit from organs taken from the dead patient.
The existence of organ harvesting also raises practical problems. The number of doctors unwilling to take part in the suicide regime is already high, and there is a chance that transplant surgeons will choose to back out of taking organs from those killed with physician aid. The scarcity of doctors and surgeons willing to perform such tasks raises the specter of doctors soon being forced to do such procedures against their conscience.
This was the proposal of two prominent bioethicists, who suggested that Canadian doctors should have to perform all procedures their patients ask of them, in spite of conscientious objection, including abortions and assisted suicides.
"Doctors must put patients' interests ahead of their own integrity," said the professors. "If this leads to feelings of guilty remorse or them dropping out of the profession, so be it."
Similar problems have arisen in other countries with legalized physician-assisted murder. The Netherlands, which legalized physician-assisted murder in 2002, has been debating whether to force doctors into participating in the program. And just last year Belgium, which also legalized assisted suicide in 2002, saw motions in its parliament that would effectively force doctors into assisting with murder. Both countries have long participated in harvesting organs from euthanized patients.
Beyond this, the feared transition of surgeons into organ hockers has already occurred in Belgium, where doctors create PowerPoint presentations lauding the "high quality" of the organs available to them from their euthanized patients. Given this is already the status quo, Dr. Wesley J. Smith of the Discovery Institute predicts it is only a matter of time before the country takes the final step: paying disabled and dying people to commit suicide in order to use their organs.