The practice of transplanting organs from patients who die after voluntary euthanasia is becoming relatively common in Belgium. A leading specialist, Dirk Van Raemdonck, told a conference in Brussels recently that there had already been nine cases. A year ago, a team at a hospital in Leuven announced that it had successfully transplanted lungs from four euthanased patients between 2007 and 2009. Over the next three years there appear to have been another five.
According to the website De Redactie, run by the Flemish public broadcasting company VRT, Belgium is the world leader in organ removal after euthanasia. This has been done only once elsewhere in the world, in neighbouring Holland, Dr Van Raemdonck told De Redactie.
Only a small proportion of euthanased patients are able to donate organs, since most of them are terminally ill with cancer. About 1,100 Belgians were euthanased in 2011. Most of the patient donors have muscular or neurological disorders.
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