In the most recent issue of First Things (subscription required), Gilbert Meilaender argued against a proposal by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to create a system, “in which organs of the deceased would be taken for transplant, with their consent presumed, unless before death they had opted out or, after death, their family members objected to such use of their organs.” This followed Meilaender’s earlier article ” Second Thoughts About Body Parts ,” and he has not been the only author noting the dangers of the organ transplant industry.
One of the fears that authors like Meilaender have voiced is that those near deathespecially the disabled and those who could not afford long-term medical carewould be eased toward a quicker death so that transplant surgeons could harvest their organs. This hypothesized fear has now made become a court case. The New York Times reports that for the first time a transplant surgeon has been charged with administering drugs to speed up the death of a patientwho was both poor and disabledso that his organs could be harvested (full story here ). It is premature to condemn the accused transplant surgeon before he receives a fair trial, but the fact that there will be a trial in the first place shows that misgivings about the culture surrounding organ transplants are not unfounded.