Reporter Marnie Cathcart wrote a commentary on a recent study published in the American Journal of Transplantation on the increasing trend of organ donation after euthanasia. The Epoch Times published Cathcart on January 17, 2023. Cathcart wrote:
Canadian patients who opt for euthanasia provide more transplant organs than any other country globally that allows physician-assisted suicide, according to the first international review of medical assistance in dying (MAID).
Patients in Canada who decide to end their lives with physician help also contributed to almost half of the world’s documented organ transplants occurring after euthanasia.
Canada legalized euthanasia in 2016, and became a world leader of the practice in 2022, with record numbers of people committing suicide with physician-administered lethal drugs. As of May 2022, eight countries in the world allowed death by “intravenous practitioner-administration of lethal substances,” the type of MAID compatible with subsequent organ donation.
Five years ago, patients had to be facing imminent death in order to avail of the procedure. This is no longer the case.
People in Canada who want to end their own lives do not need to be suffering from terminal conditions. Instead, they could qualify for MAID with a “serious and incurable illness, disease or disability.” The availability for MAID was expanded in 2022, with plans to include mental illness as a qualifying condition by March 17, 2023.
Cathcart does not state it but expanding euthanasia to people who are not dying increased the availability of organ donors because people who are not dying are more likely to have healthy organs. Cathcart comments on how altruism is a leading reason le agree to organ donation after euthanasia.
Canada has some of the most liberal rules in the world for receiving assisted suicide. Altruism can be a motivation to end one’s own life, according to the authors of this review. There is “risk that knowing how many people their organs could help, will prevent the MAID patient from feeling absolute freedom to change their mind, right up until the last time they are asked whether they wish to proceed, just before substance administration,” it noted.
Organ donation after euthanasia “raises some important ethical concerns involving patient autonomy, the link between the request for MAID and the request to donate organs and the increased burden placed on seriously ill MAID patients,” said the report.
In Canada in 2021, the most commonly cited “intolerable physical or psychological suffering” reported by patients who wanted assisted suicide was “the loss of ability to engage in meaningful activities (86.3 percent), followed closely by the loss of ability to perform activities of daily living (83.4 percent),” according to a Health Canada report.
In 2016, there were just over 1,000 deaths by euthanasia. This number jumped to 31644 by 2021. In 2021 alone, more than 10,000 people died after euthanasia.
The number of people obtaining assisted suicide was up 32.4 percent in 2021 from 2020, according to Health Canada.
Cathcart explains that Canadians who die by euthanasia at home are still donating their organs.
Canada is also leading globally in another area, according to the review. Eight assisted suicides were documented in which the patients had MAID at home and were transported to an ambulance for their organ removal. Five of those occurred in Canada.
Cathcart then comments on the data:
The international review notes that four countries allow euthanasia patients to donate organs–Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain–and 268 patients who ended their lives with MAID had their organs transplanted in 837 patints, in the years up to and including 2021. One deceased could donate multiple organs to more than one recipient.
A total of 2,782 organ transplants were performed in Canada in 2021; 78 percent of transplants used deceased donor organs and 21 percent used living donor organs.
Of those organ transplants, 136 came from deceased Canadian donors, making up 6 percent of all transplants in the country, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
Organ donation after euthanasia (ODE) began in 2005 globally, and by 2017 was developed for patients obtaining MAID from home.
“ODE is of increasing importance for donors, representing up to 14 percent of donations after circulatory determination of death,” said the report.
The review began in 2021 and the resulting study, “Practice and challenges for organ donation after medical assistance in dying: A scoping review including the results of the first international roundtable in 2021,” appeared in the December 2022 issue of the American Journal of Transplantation.
The review noted that organ donation from assisted-suicide patients raised many “unique, ethical and logistical considerations” and had multiple stakeholders, including the patient and family, end-of-life care providers, and organ procurement organizations.
According to the review, in 2020, there were 17,217 assisted suicide deaths globally, which included those who self-administered MAID drugs. Most of the patients had cancer or neurological conditions, said the report.
Cathcart explains that there are problems with organ donation after euthanasia:
Trudo Lemmens, professor in health law and policy at the University of Toronto, told CTV News that more than 35 percent of those Canadians who had assisted suicide in 2021 felt they were “a burden on family, friends or caregivers” according to a Health Canada report.
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