News that organ harvesting from Canadians killed by lethal injection is on the rise in Ontario has euthanasia opponents warning more horrors and assaults on human life are to come.
“Everybody says, ‘Well, it can’t get any lower than it is,’ but we’ll get lower than it is, because every time you break a new ethical barrier, it opens up a new question,” Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Canada-based Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told LifeSiteNews.
“There is growing evidence that coercion plays a substantial role for many vulnerable people with regards to so called physician-assisted death. Conflating this decision with organ donation further complicates the issue of coercion,” echoed John Smeaton, chief executive of the U.K.-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).
“We need to acknowledge the unsettling reality that many vulnerable people who have been euthanized without consent, may also have had their organs harvested without explicit consent,” Smeaton added in a Wednesday statement.
Trillium Gift For Life Network, which administers organ and tissue donation in Ontario, harvested 18 organs and 95 tissue donations from 113 people euthanized in the first 11 months of 2019 (December figures were not available), the Ottawa Citizen reported this week.
That’s a 14 percent increase from 2018, but not as steep a jump as the 109 percent increase in organs and tissue harvested from euthanized individuals between 2018 and 2017 in the province.
Euthanasia deaths also accounted for five percent of all the province’s overall organ and tissue donations in 2019, up from 3.6 percent in 2018, and 2.1 percent in 2017, the Citizen reported.
Canada’s most populous province, Ontario has the distinction of being the first jurisdiction in the world to proactively ask people approved for euthanasia if they want to donate their organs.
After initially allowing only patient-initiated organ donation, Quebec has now followed suit, and permits Transplant Québec to initiate discussions about organ and tissue harvesting with patients scheduled to be euthanized, the Citizen reported.
“Under the Trillium Gift of Life Network Act, designated facilities are required to notify Trillium Gift of Life Network of imminent death in an effort to ensure the opportunity to donate organs and tissue is offered to every medically-eligible Ontarian as part of high quality end-of-life care,” Trillium spokesperson Margaret Barng told LifeSiteNews.
That includes telling Trillium when an individual has been approved for euthanasia, Barng said. After this decision is made, “the discussion of organ and tissue donation occurs.”
Currently, there are more than 1,600 Ontarians waiting for “a lifesaving organ,” she said.
While potential recipients can refuse an organ if they have a moral objection to euthanasia, revealing donor information is not required, Barng told LifeSiteNews.
“The decision to share information about the donor background is up to each clinician,” she wrote in an email.
“Most do share the information, but it is not specified that it should be shared. The potential recipient is able to decline the organ if they choose and they would then remain on the waitlist.”
Euthanasia and organ harvesting: Canada leads the way
Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government legalized euthanasia, or “Medical Assistance in Dying” (MAiD), in June 2016, following a February 2015 Supreme Court decision striking down the law prohibiting euthanasia and assisted suicide as unconstitutional.
Canada thus joined Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Columbia as the only countries so far to allow euthanasia death by lethal injection.
The other jurisdictions, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, currently allow only patient-initiated organ donation, reported the Citizen.
Canada also allows assisted suicide, which is now legal in nine American states and Switzerland, but which doesn’t allow for organ harvesting because the individual typically dies by self-administered drugs. In Switzerland’s infamous death clinics, people kill themselves by taking a drug cocktail.
Canada is now on track to expand euthanasia to non-terminal cases.
In September, Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin struck down the eligibility criterion for euthanasia that death be imminent.
The ruling nullifies both the federal Criminal Code requirement in Bill C-14 that an individual’s death be “reasonably foreseeable,” and the Quebec Bill 52 requirement that an individual be at the “end of life” to be eligible for euthanasia.
Baudouin gave the governments of Quebec and Canada six months to change their laws, and neither government is appealing her decision.
Moreover, Quebec has opened up consultations on whether or not to allow “prior consent” for euthanasia, in which a person suffering from a degenerative illness gives an advance directive to be euthanized at a future date, thus opening the door for people to be killed by lethal injection without their active consent.
Killing by organ donation?
All this will inevitably increase attacks on human life, Schadenberg warns.
Linking organ donation to euthanasia changes the perception of death by lethal injection to “a good” in which “people who are sick can get better because you had your life ended,” he told LifeSiteNews.
And with imminent death no longer an eligibility requirement for euthanasia, vulnerable people, particularly those with depression or psychiatric illnesses, or mental or physical degenerative decline, or who see their lives as worthless, could find the perceived “good” of organ donation irresistible, Schadenberg said.
“There are a lot of people who are not even sick. They may have ALS, or a neurological condition such as Parkinson’s. Their organs are perfectly good. So they become the great organ donors,” he said.
“If you open up euthanasia for psychiatric reasons, those are even better donors because they have no physical health problems,” he added.
Indeed, euthanasia lobbyist Dr. James Downar, who co-chaired the Canadian Blood Services committee that developed guidelines for euthanasia organ donation, told the National Post in 2017 that euthanasia — where the heart stops beating two to three minutes after lethal injection — is a prime source of organs.
“If somebody has organs that would be appropriate to donate, you’ll never get better organs than you would by this process,” said Downar, who now has a pivotal role in palliative care at Ottawa’s Catholic Elisabeth Bruyère Hospital.
But a more grisly possibility is “already under discussion,” says Schadenberg.
“This is the ethical next question, because obviously, if you’ve said ‘yes’ to euthanasia and you’ve said ‘yes’ to organ donation by doing euthanasia first, why would you do euthanasia and then organ donation, when you could be doing euthanasia by organ donation?” he pointed out.
Death by lethal injection shuts down the heart, and “therefore, it denies the ability of a heart transplant,” Schadenberg said.
“So euthanasia by organ donation has become the next question.”
And the danger of coercive organ donation is very real, stressed SPUC’s Smeaton.
“It is true that organ donation is good, but only insofar as it does not bring about harm, namely the death of the donor, and, worse still, where that is coupled with lack of explicit consent,” he pointed out.
“The removal of explicit consent which is possible through state-regulated ‘opt-out’ policies, undermines the ethical basis of donation and intensifies concerns around some aspects of organ donation, such as removing vital organs from beating heart patients.”
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