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Quebec Ethicist: ‘Tax Breaks for Organs’ (2010)

A Quebec philosopher and ethicist has proposed that governments promote organ harvesting by offering tax credits to the individual’s family members.

But according to one expert on ‘brain death,’ people are right to have a healthy fear of organ harvesting and, rather than being offered “government bribes,” they should be given more education about the problems inherent to the practice.

Jurgen De Wispelaere, a visiting fellow with the Université de Montréal’s Centre for Ethics Research, presented his plan in a paper 2 weeks ago at the 2010 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Montreal’s Concordia University.

De Wispelaere says that approximately 50% of all potentially available organs are not used due to a lack of consent from families or the hesitancy of medical staff because of unclear consent.

Consequently, there is a shortage of organs that must be addressed by public policy, he says, arguing that organ harvesting presents a “tremendous social benefit” by increasing the quality of life of people who are able to return to active life. Maintaining that governments must go beyond mere encouragement, he proposes a two-pronged strategy to secure more organs.

First, he proposes creating a ‘second consenter,’ named by the person whose organs are sought, who would be able to vouch for the donor’s wishes upon his or her death.

Second, he suggests creating organ transplant tax credit programs, whereby the second consenter would be entitled to a tax credit after the donor’s death. This approach, he says, would give the second consenter an incentive not to change his mind or back out of his commitment. In De Wispelaere’s plan, the tax credit would be given whether the organs are used for transplant or not.

But Dr. Paul Byrne, a pediatrician and pioneer in neonatology, pointed out that surveys consistently indicate people do not want to donate because they are not sure if their death will be hastened in order to get at their organs. “They are afraid that things will be done to them before they are really dead [or] to hasten their deaths,” he said.

He argued that this fear is well-founded, saying that in fact the person must still be alive at the time of harvesting in order for his or her vital organs to be suitable for transplant. “There are no organs that are suitable for transplantation after true death,” he said. “Every organ that’s transplanted is a healthy organ that comes from a living person.”

Dr. Byrne argues that the notion of ‘brain death,’ which is used in many hospitals as the point after which organs may be harvested, was created in the 1960s and is not based on science, but on “the desire of human beings to get beating hearts for transplantation.”

“Every time a heart is transplanted, it’s a beating heart that’s coming out of a living person, and in the process the person becomes dead,” he added. “Every time an organ is transplanted, it either causes the death of the donor, or causes the donor to become weaker.”

Dr. Byrne pointed out that there have been numerous cases over the years where a person declared ‘brain dead’ has recovered and led a normal life.

In 2008, 21-year-old Zack Dunlap made headlines when he recovered after a four-wheeler accident. He was only spared from having his organs harvested by a cousin; on a hunch, the cousin ran his pocket knife across Zack’s foot and dug his finger nail under Zack’s, in each case prompting Zack to recoil the limb.

In fact, Zack reported that he had heard the doctors declare him brain dead. “I’m glad I couldn’t get up and do what I wanted to do,” he told NBC. “There probably would have been a broken window they went out.”

“Nobody should be declared dead unless there is an absence of life,” said Dr. Byrne. “We should not declare someone dead until they are not responsive to anything, until they don’t have a heartbeat, they don’t have a blood pressure, they don’t have respiration or breathing. That’s the very minimum.”

De Wispelaere’s plan is “propagating [organ harvesting] through bribery, when in fact what needs to be done is the people need to be educated,” he said. Rather than pushing for tax incentives for donors, he says legislators should be “insisting that the donors be fully and completely informed – explicitly informed – about what organ donation is all about.”

LifeSiteNews attempted to contact Jurgen De Wispelaere, but did not hear back by press time.
Find more information exposing the notion of ‘brain death’ at the Life Guardian Foundation.

“Brain Death” is Life, Not Death: Neurologists, Philosophers, Neonatologists, Jurists, and Bioethicists Unanimous at Conference

New England Journal of Medicine: ‘Brain Death’ is not Death – Organ Donors are Alive

Woman’s Waking After Brain Death Raises Many Questions About Organ Donation

Woman Diagnosed as “Brain Dead” Walks and Talks after Awakening

Doctor Says about “Brain Dead” Man Saved from Organ Harvesting – “Brain Death is Never Really Death”

The Inconvenient Truth About Organ Donations

[14 June 2010, Patrick B. Craine, MONTREAL, Quebec, ; URL: ]