Several Belgian physicians argue in a recent research letter in JAMA that encouraging the practice of organ donation after euthanasia will help reduce the waitlists for organ donation.
“In 2015, 1288 people were on the Belgian organ transplantation waiting list. An estimated maximum of 10.1% of all patients undergoing euthanasia could potentially donate at least 1 organ, with 684 organs potentially available for donation. In 2015, 260 deceased donor kidneys were donated; if 400 kidneys were donated by patients undergoing euthanasia, the potential number of kidneys available for donation could more than double.”However, they acknowledge that enthusiasm for this novel method needs to be tempered by an awareness of some of its limitations. Patients who will be euthanised need to agree to donate their organs and they have to die in a hospital setting. Often people prefer to die at home.
At the moment, organ donation after euthanasia, they say, is only allowed in Belgium and the Netherland and is still relatively uncommon. There have been reports that it may be happening in Canada as well.
The article does not take into account trends in the type of patient who undergoes euthanasia. Many patients were excluded from their calculation because they were too old or were suffering from diseases like cancer which are more common amongst the elderly. But if euthanasia become common for psychiatric conditions, younger patients who are physically healthier might expand the pool of organs even further.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
We’re back from the Easter holidays, which in Australia are far longer than elsewhere, thank goodness. To get back into the rhythm of things, we have published two articles about “fake news” and bioethics. One reports that prospective IVF parents in Mississippi discovered to their horror that they were twins separated at birth. This went around the world before some spoilsport blew the whistle on it. The other is an announcement by British billionaire Richard Branson that he is setting up a sperm bank for dyslexics. Branson being Branson, it’s hard to tell whether this is fake news or not, but I suspect that it is.
The problem with BioEdge, some readers tell us, is that everything sounds like fake news. This, of course, is not true; we take great care to check our sources. However, all too often the articles seem to have been composed in some gigantic facility manned by bad news elves.
In fact, when you read today’s lead story, “Euthanised organ donors could dramatically shorten waitlists in Belgium, say doctors”, I must concede that it does sound so implausible as to be fake. But it’s not a report from The Onion, but from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Go figure.
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