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September 25, 2013

By guest commentator Michelle Frazer:

In his recent commentary, writer John Stonestreet has described a new development in Europe as “worse than fiction.” Some patients suffering from certain unbearable disorders have asked for euthanasia, coupled with organ donation to save the lives of others.

Now don’t be carried away with the redemptive value of euthanasia until considering the following facts. At last May’s 21st European Conference on Thoracic Surgery, a paper by a group of Belgian doctors described “Lung Transplantation with Grafts Recovered from Euthanasia Donors.” The abstract describes something unheard-of here in the United States: six patients who received new lungs from euthanized donors between January of 2007 and December of 2012.

According to the European Institute of Bioethics, euthanasia is a common practice in Belgium, with over 5000 cases since 2002, and a steadily increasing number each year. What could be the implications of promoting organ donation in such a context? Peter Saunders, writing for LifeSite News, sees an ugly future:

I wonder how long it will be before elderly people who have ‘already had a good life’ start being eyed up by those with organ failure who are not yet ready to die and being accused covertly, or overtly, of selfishness for being unwilling to hand their fresh healthy organs over.

Given that one third of euthanasia cases in Belgium are already involuntary, I wonder if any patients have yet had their organs harvested without their consent because someone had ‘greater need’ of them?

Organ donation could add even more complexity to the already-difficult subject of terminal illness and ethical decision-making. The debate certainly highlights a marked contrast between Christian and humanist worldviews. Christians believe that every life has dignity and equal worth, while humanists place relative value on life due to its perceived quality or potential for longevity.

Furthermore, giving one’s life for another is a very Christian thing to do, modeling Christ’s sacrificial love. On this basis, organ donation after euthanasia might seem justified in this self-sacrificial way, but only if one freely decides to give up his life for another. But currently, organ donation is seemingly just an added benefit of euthanasia, not its goal. If organ donation becomes a standard purpose of euthanasia, then will it be a free act of self-sacrifice or a result of utilitarian pressure?

Christians believe that God is ultimately sovereign over life, not doctors or even patients. And the Christian and humanist worldviews differ in how one finds worth and happiness. The desire for euthanasia suggests that maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain are the supreme considerations. From a Christian perspective, worth comes from being a child of God and finding joy in Him, sacrificially loving others as we wait for eternal life in a better world.

(Michelle is a senior physics major at Cedarville University)

European Institute of Bioethics report

BreakPoint Commentary

LifeSite News Report

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