Monday, June 13, 2011

Picking who gets your baby's heart

Lillian O’Connor is one month old, and won't survive without a new heart. Kaylee Wallace is two months old, and due to a brain condition, won't survive once she is taken off a ventilator.

Their story has raised a number of ethical concerns.

They are in the same hospital, Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. Their parents heard each others' story, and Kaylee's parents offered their girl's heart to Lillian.

Kerry Bowman, an ethicist with the Joint Centre for Bioethics, called that a wonderful human gesture, but can't be done.

Bowman, quoted frequently on this case in the media, worries that such promises put us on a slippery slope, by connecting the death of one person to the survival of another. It's a small step from there, he warns, to saying that since the donor will die anyway, why not allow euthanasia to speed up the process?

The other fear is that allowing people to pick who gets a family member's organs might mean that the most deserving (as in, the sickest) patient might not get the life-saving transplant. People might want to give the organs to someone who is like them, socially or culturally.

They might even try to sell them, ethicists warn.

It seems there is no shortage of slippery slopes in this story.


Post a Comment