How Do You (and Your Faith) See Organ Donation?

Why do some people become organ donors while others do not?

According to a recent survey by Donate Life America, 51 percent of Americans say they’re willing to donate their organs after death (though only 38 percent are registered organ donors), and 53 percent of registered donors say they made the decision to help others in need.

When the researchers spoke with those who are unwilling or reluctant to donate their organs, they found that the majority of them—52 percent—think doctors might not try as hard to save the lives of organ donors, and 61 percent erroneously think it’s possible for a brain dead person to recover. They also found that 8 percent believe organ donation is against their religion.

The truth is, the decision to donate organs and tissue is compatible with most religious beliefs. The Catholic Church has now long supported organ donation, mainstream Protestant denominations approve the practice, and the Rabbinical Council of America ruled organ donation permissible in the early 1990s. As David Fleming, president and CEO of Donate Life America, explains in a news release:

There are no known religions in the U.S. with a position against donation; rather, all major religions support organ donation as one of the highest expressions of compassion and generosity.

In the United Kingdom, where it has been tough to raise the number of organ donations, religious leaders have actively appealed to their followers and tried to clear up misconceptions. The Church of England says organ donation is a Christian duty. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales described it as a true act of generosity. The head of the UK Hindu Council said it was natural for Hindus to donate body parts, as well as goods, at the end of their lives. (BBC News)

And in Canada, Rabbi Reuven Bulka, chairman of the board of Ontario’s Trillium Gift of Life Network, has suggested that the best way to get results is to promote organ donation as a religious responsibility. “We need to promote it as a religious fulfillment, as a religious imperative, as a religious obligation, as something we should be doing—to get away from this, ‘Aw, it’s OK,'” says Bulka. “It’s the right thing to do. It’s a life-saving thing to do.” (The Ottawa Citizen)

Category: Bioethics

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3 Responses

  1. Dave Undis says:

    Over half of the 106,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list will die before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate about 20,000 transplantable organs every year. Over 9,000 of our neighbors suffer and die needlessly every year as a result.

    There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage — give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

    Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren’t willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

    Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at http://www.lifesharers.org or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

  2. ABrookhart says:

    I’m shocked that this discussion is such a big issue in the Church. To be honest, as a Christian, I’ve never thought that donating organs was such a big deal. No one in my church ever talked about it being bad, and I’m an organ donor. Is it against other religions and beliefs?

    What I also find interesting is the statistics listed above in the first paragraph. If so many people believe that giving their organs is a good thing, how come they don’t act on it? Interesting, yet strange.

  3. Jim G says:

    Like many mid-50s adults who were raised in the Roman Catholic church, I was taught that I could not be cremated and that my body had to be buried intact so that I could be “complete” at the last days. While this teaching has been refuted for many years, there are some who still believe, even though scripture teaches that we will be brought into our perfect body in Heaven (1 Cor 15:35-58)

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