Bring fatally handicapped babies to term for their organs urges health service

Mothers whose unborn babies will die at or soon after birth will be urged by the National Health Service in the UK to carry their children to full term for the purpose of using their organs after death.

According to The Mirror newspaper, during the annual meeting of the British Transplant Society in Glasgow, details of the NHS scheme were unveiled, revealing that a committee has already been established to boost the number of organ donations from newborns to at least 100 per year through direct approaches to women who receive news of a ‘fatal foetal abnormality’.

Included in the plan are foetuses diagnosed with anencephaly, a developmental defect of the brain detectable by scan at 12 weeks. Critics have pointed out, however, that while the condition can be limiting for a child, it is not always fatal. They have cited the case of Jackson Buell, a US child born in 2014 with microhydranencephaly, who continues to live and thrive today.

The NHS plan has also been criticised by medical practitioners, who see the plan as both morally unacceptable and potentially damaging to the reputation of the medical profession.

Reacting to the NHS announcement, Dr Trevo Stammers, director for bioethics at St Mary’s University, London, said: “It is a ghoulish suggestion that can only undermine public confidence in transplantation — one of the greatest medical advances of my lifetime. Raiding the bodies of children born only for their organs will further tarnish the profession.”

The story of Jackson Buell can be accessed here.