June
12
 

Belgian transplant surgeons use lungs from euthanased patients

Using organs from euthanased patients seem to have become a well established procedure in Belgium, only nine years after it was legalized. A press release from a team at a hospital in Leuven announced yesterday that it had successfully transplanted lungs from four euthanased patients between 2007 and 2009.

In an article in the journal Applied Cardiopulmonary Pathophysiology, the authors observe that the quality of the lungs from euthanased patients seems superior to those obtained from brain dead donors and donations after cardiac death. “In contrast to these donors, euthanasia donors do not experience an agonal phase before circulatory arrest as seen in donors dying from hypoxemia or from cardiogenic or hypovolemic shock.”

Apparently a number of patients who request euthanasia want to donate their organs. However, since many of them have cancer, the organs are not suitable. Three of the euthanased patients who did donate suffered from “a debilitating benign disease such as a neurological or muscular disorder”. The other was not ill at all, but had an “unbearable mental disorder”.

The authors were at pains to stress that they acted strictly within the guidelines for euthanasia in Belgium. All of the patients gave their consent.

Organ donation after euthanasia in Belgium is well organized. Eurotransplant, a coordination group for transplants in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovenia, has already developed elaborate protocols for “organ donation and transplantation after euthanasia”.



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