Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Providing 'spare part' babies

Women whose babies develop fatal defects in the early stages of pregnancy will be given advice on going ahead with the birth so the NHS can harvest the babies' organs, according to the Mail on Sunday.

Many mothers opt for an abortion after being told the child has no hope of survival once born. Now, the newspaper claims, mothers will be supported to have the baby at nine months so the child's organs can be taken for transplant.

Speaking of obtaining organs from newborns, transplant surgeon Niaz Ahmad, of St James University Hospital in Leeds, said "We are looking at rolling it out as a viable source of organ transplantation nationally."

At the moment, doctors will not raise the issue of donation first with expectant mothers, but wait for the women to approach the NHS themselves. However, that could change, Mr Ahmad is reported to have said.

A lead nurse has been appointed to co-ordinate efforts to educate NHS staff about talking to parents about such a sensitive issue.

In some cases, where donation had been agreed, babies could be certified brain dead, but their bodies kept alive by artificial ventilation, so organs removed would be fresh and have more chance of successful transplant.

I have previously expressed the view that brain death is not in fact death and donors would still be alive when the organs were removed.

Dr Trevor Stammers, lecturer in bioethics and medical ethics at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, said "It would be frankly abhorrent if transplant doctors were to ask women whose unborn children have been diagnosed with severe defects to let their baby go to term for the sole reason that its body can be raided for its organs.

"Mothers electing to carry babies with such severe defects to term - because they would love the child for as long as it should live - have, up till now, often been pressured to abort anyway. They have been regarded as foolish to continue the pregnancy. 

"It is concerning that mothers will now be encouraged to go to term with the express intention of the  child's organs being taken. What happens if they change their mind once they see their newborn son or daughter?

"It is a ghoulish suggestion. The concept reduces the baby to nothing more than a utilitarian means to an end - a collection of spare parts - rather than respecting life for its own sake.

"I know those organs can potentially save the lives of others, but at what cost to our humanity?

"The integrity of transplant medicine has already been compromised by using organs from euthanised adults. Raiding the bodies of children born only for their organs will further tarnish the profession."

No comments: