The astonishing thing is not that some ethicists approved of the notion of organ donation euthanasia. Crackpot ideas are a dime a dozen in bioethics journals. The astonishing thing is that the leading doctors’ group in The Netherlands is about to adopt this policy.
Can’t it foresee the appalling abuses which will take place? The most obviousis that patients with neurodegenerative conditions will feel immense pressure to end their lives so that others can live longer. Their lives will resemble the cloned young people who are raised from childhood to be organ donors in Kazuo Ishiguru’s novel Never Let Me Go. Their teachers and carers teach them submissiveness and resignation to their fate. Death is called “completion”; they have finished the task they were born for.
Similarly, poor Dutch people afflicted with ALS or multiple sclerosis will be constantly reminded that the longer they live, the more younger, more active people will have to suffer. Their lives will only be meaningful if they choose euthanasia. Direct pressure will not be necessary; they will get the message every day on the radio, on the television news, in the glossy weekend magazines. In the words of the KNMG ethicist, Gert van Dijk:
“Saving lives is the main motive for donating organs for people who will die through euthanasia. They know that they are going to die and they want to give this meaning by donating their organs. It can even be a consolation for those who survive them. And given the effort that these brave people have to make, they deserve respect and great support from caregivers.”
The Dutch are also extending euthanasia to people who are just tired of living. Sooner or later, ethicists will whisper to them that they, too, can leave life and give it to others.
Fine words cannot disguise the fact that organ donation euthanasia is sheer barbarism. One of the core convictions of Western civilisation is that individuals must be treated as ends in themselves and not simply as means to an end. The Dutch are on the verge of repudiating this wisdom and replacing it with the basest utilitarianism. Good luck to them.
Michael Cook is editor of Mercator.Net where this article was originally published.