Organ donation, when properly managed, is a positive, humane process which allows the healthy organs of a consenting individual to be transplanted into another for purposes of extending that person’s life. Kidney, heart, lung and other transplants have become commonplace as are waiting lists for patients needing transplants.
What could make such a humane process controversial? Here are the ways:
- Some groups/medical people want to redefine death so that organs can be taken from individuals who have not suffered complete brain death. This might include people who are unconscious. The reasoning used is that the unconscious person is not providing the same value to society as the patient (or patients) who would benefit from the unconscious person’s organs. Of course, removal of the unconscious person’s organs would be the cause of death, making this concept highly controversial.
- Legislation has been introduced in some states, most recently in Colorado, for what is called “presumed consent.” What this means is that you are presumed to have consented to organ donation unless you indicate otherwise. This approach is common in Europe but has been rejected in Delaware, Illinois and New York for fear that it smacks of coercion. Colorado introduced a bill and quickly jettisoned it when it caused a furor of ethical concerns.
- In Belgium, where euthanasia is legal, Belgian eugenics doctors are harvesting what they call “high quality” organs from patients who have been euthanized. Several Belgian doctors presented a power point at a medical conference stating that 20% of the 705 people who were euthanized had neuromuscular disorders. These patients had “high quality” organs which could be made available to decrease the number of patients on transplant waiting lists. To make it more palatable, they have developed a “protocol.
What all of these controversial procedures do is to undermine trust. If you are a person who who wants to benefit another through organ donation, you need to be assured that there are not competing interests which could shorten your life or view you as a less valuable member of the human family.