By Andrew Rock

Dutch medical experts are  influencing policy changes for organ donation after euthanasia. The Netherlands has experienced low donation numbers through euthanasia in recent years.  Physicians anticipate new legislation will significantly increase the number of organs in the donation pool.  In 2013, 273 Dutch citizens donated their organs, while 4800 instances of euthanasia occurred. Dr. Gert van Dijk of Erasmus Medical School explains, “even if a small percentage of euthanasia patients choose to donate their organs after death, we could be seeing the doubling of post-mortem donors.”

‘Post-euthanasia donation’ guidelines will allow doctors provided by the donor family to perform the euthanasia. Hospitals can be uneasy about non-resident physicians operating in their facilities, thus the physicians must assume all legal responsibility. Further, a non-hospital-affiliated transplant doctor must be present to assure compliance, and a representative of the National Justice Department must be present to confirm death.

Despite the Netherlands’ organ scarcity, post-euthanasia donation has been unpopular due to euthanasia implementation in the home, away from the resources necessary for organ harvesting. A complicated process, organ donation requires hospital resources within minutes of death in order to maintain an organ’s functionality.

Champions of post-euthanasia donation view organ donation as a meaningful element to euthanasia, and hope others will too.  Dicky Ringeling, a 61 year-old woman diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, made headlines when she coupled her euthanasia with organ donation, garnering positive publicity which viewed her in a heroic light.

Physicians may approve post-euthanasia donation even though policy changes have not yet been decided or implemented. However, many ethicists stress that a desire to donate is not a reason to seek euthanasia. Possible coercion toward euthanasia for the purpose of organ harvesting has raised concern and may require a high level of oversight. For the full story, click here.