By Michael Cook
Doctors in the Netherlands are working on a scheme to increase the number of life-saving organs available for transplant – by harvesting them from people who want to be euthanased.
Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam and the University Hospital of Maastricht have already written national guidelines which are being studied by the Dutch Transplant Foundation.
If the procedures are approved, they would be binding on hospitals and doctors throughout the country.
Spurring on this study is the feeling among transplant surgeons that healthy organs are sometimes wasted when patients are euthanased. In the words of a medical ethics expert with the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG), Gert van Dijk, “An estimated 5 to 10% of people who are euthanased could be considered for organ donation. Five percent does not seem like much, but this still means 250 to 500 potential organ donors every year.” He believes that Dutch doctors could even double the number of organs available for life-saving procedures.