At a recent meeting of the British Transplantation Society in Glasgow, Britain’s National Health Service disclosed plans to encourage mothers of preborn babies with fatal defects to carry their babies through birth – rather than aborting them – so that the babies’ organs can be harvested.
When a preborn baby is diagnosed with a fatal defect, such as anencephaly, the mother will be “supported” to go through with the pregnancy and birth, allowing use of the child’s vital organs for transplantation. In some cases, the baby may be brain dead, but kept alive artificially during harvesting, in order to keep the body parts “fresh.” The UK Mirror reports:
Under the new proposals, mothers would give birth in the normal way and once doctors had certified the infant dead, its vital organs would be removed. However, donation would not be raised when a woman was still deciding whether or not to have an abortion – and nobody would be compelled to donate their baby’s organs.
In some cases, where donation has been agreed, babies could be certified brain dead but their bodies kept alive by artificial ventilation. Surgeons could then remove organs from these so-called ‘heartbeat babies’ when they are fresh, maximising what can be used and the chance of successful transplant.
The move was prompted by Britain’s shortage in organs for transplantation, as more than 7,000 people await body parts for a transplant.
Dr. Niaz Ahmad, transplant surgeon at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds, England, believes the babies’ organs could be “a viable source of organ transplantation nationally.”
But some doctors do not see as a “viable” source of organ transplantation here, and certainly not an ethical one.
Dr. Trevor Stammers, director for bioethics at St Mary’s University, London, spoke against the plan proposed by the National Health Service, referring to the idea as “ghoulish.” He said that “raiding the bodies of children born only for their organs with further tarnish the profession” and could “undermine public confidence in transplantation.”