William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Stream: Doctors Killing Patients And Harvesting Their Organs

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Today’s post is at The Stream: When Doctors Kill Patients to Harvest Their Organs.

“How’s your headache, Mr Jones?”

“Gettin’ worse, doc. Had it off and on all week.”

“That’s what we expected. Good thing you came in last week for the organ scan I recommended. Let’s look at the chart. Well, we know your heart is strong. Best ticker I’ve seen in ages. Heart like that, man your age, would go for a least half a million. I’m surprised, too, because you indicated that you’re a moderate drinker. Your LFT corroborates this—”

“—LFT?”

“Liver function test. Looks at blood levels of ALP, albumin, things like that. Shows how well the liver is working. You’re nowhere near the worst end of the scale, but you’re not the best, either. Couldn’t get more than, oh, five grand; ten tops.”

“How ’bout my stomach? I can eat anything.”

“Yes, it’s a good one. Unfortunately, we don’t really do stomach transplants. Not yet, anyway. Most people don’t know it, but you can actually live quite a productive life without a stomach. I’m not saying there’s not some value for lab work. Don’t forget, Mr Jones, we’ll use every part we can. The contract…”

If you get sick, dear reader, whatever you do, don’t go to the doctor. At least not in Belgium or the Netherlands, where conversations like the above might not become unusual. At least, not if some thinkers get their way.

Jan Bollen, Rankie ten Hoopen, and three others have written an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics called “Legal and ethical aspects of organ donation after euthanasia in Belgium and the Netherlands“, in which the prospects of harvesting organs from the bodies of those killed by “doctors” are discussed in warm terms.

“Doctors” killing patients is of course the definition of euthanasia. (Suicide does not require a medical professional.) The scare quotes are necessary to remind us the traditional role of the physician was healing. Increasingly that old meaning is being replaced by a utilitarian concept where not life but maximum health is the goal of medicine. Thus, once maximum health becomes imperiled, some “doctors” suggest euthanasia as a “cure”…

Now the authors are aware of the obvious ethical tension. If patients know doctors are lusting after their livers, this could “cause a breach of trust with the treating physician, and one might get the impression that the physician is only willing to perform euthanasia because the patient will donate organs.”…

Just like spraying fruit with insecticide, prepping the still-live body is important if one is to have the freshest organs. Luckily, injectible chemicals for this exist. And they’re allowed, but only if they “not ‘harm’ the patient”, which is an odd sentiment when the patient is about to have his throat cut. (No, I’m kidding. They kill him in other ways.)…

Like the dialog above stresses, a “patient might be motivated to request euthanasia because this gives him the opportunity to donate organs.” This is not troubling “As long as all due diligence requirements are fulfilled”. The authors do note publicity is problematic. There will probably be no in-hospital screenings of Soylent Green.

What is fascinating is that Bollen et al. never mention…

Go there to read the restbefore you make out that living will.

16 Comments

  1. Assisted suicide is like an assisted game of solitary.

    Living will may not matter. My mother had one but I still could tell them if they were to continue treatment or not and if use of her organs was allowed. Living wills can be revoked by the person whose name is listed on the will to contact (or something like that). I had a friend who revoked her father’s directive, then ended up having to remove him from life support later. Living wills are not the end-all they are advertised to be.

    This discussion has been going on for years concerning those removed from the planet via capital punishment.

    How do you kill someone and preserve the organs? Is there a drug that causes only brain death and nothing more? (Technically, even throat cutting won’t work unless the patient is brain-dead before the heart stops beating. Tricky to show, I would think.)

    All the more reason not to live in socialist utopias.

  2. Treading on the line between death and life is very difficult, and practice will dictate, if it doesn’t already, that if the person’s intent to donate their organs is honored, the actual timing of the death is pretty much moot.

  3. Anon: If someone wants to die, is it okay to sedate them and remove their organs for transplant as the means of death?

  4. Exactly. That is exactly where this heading. Except that it will be expanded to those who have no immediate wish to die. It is a very effective means of population control.

  5. I guess it’s better than Soylent Green……

  6. The 2005 sci-fi movie The Island explores a dystopian world where the wealthy pay to have a clone made of themselves which is used for spare parts, organ donation, and child birth for barren couples. The buyers are informed that the clones are never brought to consciousness but in reality the organ transplants fail unless the clones are brought to consciousness and are allowed to live “a life” in an artificial society. The clones are “disposed” of after their usefulness has passed.

    The trouble with utilitarianism, in a society such as ours, is value always comes back to a dollar value. Who’s making money indeed!

  7. There should be a liquid market for body, parts an a person (or his heirs) should be compensated for leaving behind a healthy corpse. The doctors and hospitals shouldn’t get the money! Well they would get their fee for extraction and transplant, but the tissue itself is not their property — unless they pay the market rate and get a proper receipt.

    Of course if your teenager is a shiftless lie-about, you may decide that he is worth more sold for scrap then the expected value of his future contributions to society. Especially, if he doesn’t do drugs.

    Perhaps a person could even pre-sell their organs. Money today for body parts in the future. Very interesting possibilities here.

  8. Steve E,
    Clones are people, too.

  9. Doug M.

    Why stop there? Healthy young ladies could become pregnant with a fetus, have the fetus removed from their body after 9 months, then after 16 years, the fetus would be ready to be sold for parts. After all, its just a fetus, right?

  10. Briggs, did you miss, in the end “It is even possible to extend this argument to a ‘heart-beating organ donation euthanasia’ where apatient is sedated, after which his organs are being removed, causing death.”?

  11. Briggs

    May 26, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    L,

    Thanks for pointing that out. I already went over my word count in the Stream article, but now I think you’re right and I should have put that one in. I didn’t because the quotation was followed by “Both options are currently legally not allowed” and I figured somebody’d carp, “Briggs, that’s not even legal!”

  12. Good to know someone else has trouble with word limits. 🙂

  13. This could be a boon for the children of elderly parents in poverty. The parents, with no property or money to pass on as inheritance, could nominate various organs in their will. John can have the proceeds of the auction of my heart. My lungs are for Nancy. Their children, my grandchildren, can share in any other parts that can be harvested. The doctor can have 10% of the sale if my termination leaves the organs fresh enough for the high end of the market.

    We kill pre-birth. We decide when to die. We marry anything. We revere nature except our own biology.

  14. Milton Hathaway

    May 26, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    “So, where do you work?”, asks Sally.
    “Human Resources”, replies Sue.

  15. Milton. I love it. I am always correcting people in my field “IT” when they call a person a resource. Coal is a resource. Servers are resources.

  16. It’s an interesting subject and I’m glad you guys pay attention to it. We have almost 80 million Baby Boomers about to get elderly. We do not want to see this turn into some macabre scene with organs flying around all over the place like that old Monty Python sketch come to life.

    JMJ

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