I can think of few things that would undermine universal human equality than for society to think that killing despairing people with serious illnesses or disabilities could be a splendid means of incresasing the supply of transplant organs. I warned about this likelihood in my very first foray into anti euthanasia activists in Newsweek, June 28, 1993. From, “The Whispers of Strangers:”
Of greater concern to me is the moral trickledown effect that could result should society ever come to agree with Frances. Life is action and reaction, the proverbial pebble thrown into the pond. We don’t get to the Brave New World in one giant leap. Rather, the descent to depravity is reached by small steps. First, suicide is promoted as a virtue. Vulnerable people like Frances become early casualties. Then follows mercy killing of the terminally ill. From there, it’s a hop, skip and a jump to killing people who don’t have a good “quality” of life, perhaps with the prospect of organ harvesting thrown in as a plum to society.
Bingo! All are happening now.
In the years since, I tried to find evidence of such happenings in the Netherlands for years. Nothing. But Belgium has jumped so enthusiastically off the euthanasia cliff, it only took them a few years before coupling voluntary euthanasia with organ harvesting, as I wrote about here earlier. And now, doctors announced they collected the lungs after a patient was killed by euthanasia. From the press release:
Between 01/2007-12/2009 in Leuven 17 isolated lung transplantations were performed from cardiac death donors, including four after euthanasia, Dirk van Raemdonck and colleagues (Leuven) report. “All donors expressed their wish for organ donation once their request for euthanasia was granted according to Belgian legislation. All donors suffered from an unbearable non-malignant disorder.” One recipient died from a problem unrelated to the graft. The other three patients are still alive - in a good condition.
“The donors were admitted to the hospital a few hours before the planned euthanasia procedure. A central venous line was placed in a room adjacent to the operating room. Donors were heparinized immediately before a cocktail of drugs was given by the treating physician who agreed to perform the euthanasia. The patient was announced dead on cardiorespiratory criteria by three independent physicians. The deceased was then rapidly transferred, installed on the operating table, and intubated. The thorax and abdomen were shaved, disinfected and draped. A rapid sterno-laparotomy was performed. The abdominal team took care of liver and kidney preservation with a rapid flush cooling technique via a cannula inserted into the abdominal aorta. The thoracic team then opened pleural cavities and quickly inspected both lungs before topical cooling with ice-cold saline was started.
The non malignant conditions were probably neuro/muscular disabilities that euthanasa/organ harvesting promoters have targeted in a Power Point presentation as splendid subjects for this process because their organs are generally not damaged.
Imagine being a devalued person with a serious disability and come to believe your life isn’t worth anything, and in fact, worry that you are a burden, to realize that you could reverse the situation by being euthanized and harvested? This is a emotional inducement to be killed, and as such, is extremely dangerous to the wellbeing of people with serious disabilities.
And it won’t stop there. Just as I was right in my 1993 prediction, trust me on this: Coming next—paying people with serious disabilities to be killed and harvested, like Jack Kevorkian once advocated. Utilitarian booster of such a course would argue that it saves society money on the costs of long term care, allow the disabled person the satisfaction of offering a benefit to society out of their personal tragedy, and leave a nice bundle for family, friends, or cause. Win. Win. Win.
Once you accept the premise that there is such a thing as a life not worth living—to the point that killing is an acceptable answer to the problem—there aren’t many arguments left against such a regime. People with disabilities should be very alarmed.