Organ procurement after euthanasia: Belgian experience

Transplant Proc. 2009 Mar;41(2):585-6. doi: 10.1016/j.transproceed.2008.12.025.


Euthanasia was legalized in Belgium in 2002 for adults under strict conditions. The patient must be in a medically futile condition and of constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated, resulting from a serious and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident. Between 2005 and 2007, 4 patients (3 in Antwerp and 1 in Liège) expressed their will for organ donation after their request for euthanasia was granted. Patients were aged 43 to 50 years and had a debilitating neurologic disease, either after severe cerebrovascular accident or primary progressive multiple sclerosis. Ethical boards requested complete written scenario with informed consent of donor and relatives, clear separation between euthanasia and organ procurement procedure, and all procedures to be performed by senior staff members and nursing staff on a voluntary basis. The euthanasia procedure was performed by three independent physicians in the operating room. After clinical diagnosis of cardiac death, organ procurement was performed by femoral vessel cannulation or quick laparotomy. In 2 patients, the liver, both kidneys, and pancreatic islets (one case) were procured and transplanted; in the other 2 patients, there was additional lung procurement and transplantation. Transplant centers were informed of the nature of the case and the elements of organ procurement. There was primary function of all organs. The involved physicians and transplant teams had the well-discussed opinion that this strong request for organ donation after euthanasia could not be waived. A clear separation between the euthanasia request, the euthanasia procedure, and the organ procurement procedure is necessary.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Belgium
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Euthanasia / statistics & numerical data*
  • Euthanasia, Active, Voluntary / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting / methods
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / statistics & numerical data*