| BioEdge | Sunday, June 18, 2017 |
A controversial organ donation case in the US has sparked debate about the ethical criteria for organ procurement.
Authorities are investigating the death of 8-year-old Cole Hartman in a Los Angeles Hospital after doctors withdrew life support and administered the drug fentanyl – an opioid that, in sufficiently large doses, can be fatal. The case, which occurred in 2014, was brought to public attention last month when the coroner who examined Hartman brought a lawsuit against her superiors (whom she said were attempting to cover up the findings).
The coroner alleges that the dose of fentanyl was a “significant cause” of the Hartman’s death.
Many hospitals, including the one in which the boy died, prohibit doctors from administering opioids with the intention of hastening the death of the patient. And there is significant community concern about the medical hastening of death to harvest organs.
Organ donation has for decades been understood to be ethical only after brain death has occurred. Yet, as an article in The Atlantic earlier this week highlighted, there is some support for changing the criteria to or “organ donation after circulatory death” (cardiac death). The notion of organ donation euthanasia has been mooted in recent times.
And if you found these development unsettling, try this on for size. A post in the Journal of Medical Ethics blog explores the ethics of xenotransplantation. When discussing the problems posed by the immune-rejection the organs sourced from non-human animals, the authors moot a new, albeit controversial solution: growing organs in brainless humans.
If we were able to genetically engineer brainless humans, then the reasons behind [the respect for and moral value of humans] no longer apply. The object – it is not possible to call it a human being since it has no consciousness – has no capacity for consciousness, nor did it have the potential for capacity for consciousness since it would not have been created except in these circumstances. It is at best, similarly to the vessel of pig origin, a collection of organic matter that happens to be shaped like a member of the species Homo sapiens. The organs grown within this vessel would be the most compatible with patients, and would help to alleviate the organ shortage crisis.
Sunday, June 18, 2017
A Massachusetts woman has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in a case which was reported across the United States and could affect the debate about assisted suicide.
In 2014 Michelle Carter, then 17, used phone calls and text messages to bully her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, 18, into asphyxiating himself in his car.
Their relationship was a bizarre one. Although they lived only an hour away from each other, they met in Florida on family holidays. Thereafter they only met each other a handful of times. But they texted each other incessantly, especially about Roy’s desire to kill himself. Ms Carter encouraged him.
However, when he was sitting in his car and the fumes were building up, he got out, clearly wanting to live. She instructed him to get back in. He did and he died.
There are two schools of thought about Ms Carter’s bullying. Most people would agree with the judge that she had a duty to try to save Roy’s life and acted in a “wanton and reckless” manner.
But others, while acknowledging that her words were reprehensible, point out that Massachusetts has no law against assisted suicide and that words are not bullets. They argue that her incitement was protected free speech.
The American Civil Liberties Union has yet another reason why Ms Carter should have been acquitted: “If allowed to stand, Ms. Carter’s conviction could chill important and worthwhile end-of-life discussions between loved ones.” In other words, this throws sand in the gears of legalising assisted suicide.
What do you think?
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