All major religions support organ donation as a humanitarian gift, giving life. Organ and tissue donation represents one of the highest forms of loving, giving and caring. Many denominations have passed resolutions encouraging their members, as part of their ministry, to become organ and tissue donors at the time of their death.
AME & AME Zion (African Methodist Episcopal)
Organ and tissue donation is viewed as an act of neighborly love and charity by these denominations. They encourage all members to support donation as a way of helping others.
The Amish will consent to donation if they believe it is for the well being of the transplant recipient. John Hosteler, world-renowned authority on Amish religion, states in his book, Amish Society, “The Amish believe that since God created the human body, it is God who heals. However, nothing in the Amish understanding of the Bible forbids them from using modern medical services, including surgery, hospitalization, dental work, anesthesia, blood transfusions and immunizations.
Assembly of God
The Church has no official policy regarding organ and tissue donation. The decision to donate is left up to the individual. The denomination highly supports donation.
Organ and tissue donation is supported as an act of charity. The Baptist Church leaves the decision up to the individual. The nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, adopted a resolution in 1988 encouraging physicians to request organ donation in appropriate circumstances and to “encourage voluntarism regarding organ donation in the spirit of stewardship, compassion for the needs of others and alleviating suffering.
The Church of the Brethren’s Annual Conference in 1993 developed a resolution on organ and tissue donation supporting and encouraging donation. They wrote, “We have the opportunity to help others out of love for Christ through the donation of organs and tissues.
Helping others is central to Buddhism along with the belief that charity forms an integral part of a spiritual way of life. Human life, like everything else, is impermanent. It may be considered an act of compassion to enable another person to continue to live. Sogyal Rinpoche, in The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying, states that “organ donation is an extremely positive action. As long as it is truly the wish of the dying person, it will not harm in any way the consciousness that is leaving the body. On the contrary, this final act of generosity accumulates good karma.” The importance of letting your loved ones know your wishes is stressed.
Catholics view organ and tissue donation as an act of charity and love. Transplants are morally and ethically acceptable to the Vatican. Pope John Paul II has stated, “The Catholic Church would promote the fact that there is a need for organ donors, and Christians should accept this as a challenge to their generosity and fraternal love, so long as ethical principles are followed.
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
The Christian Church encourages organ and tissue donation, stating that we were created for God’s glory and for sharing God’s love. A 1985 resolution, adopted by the General Assembly, encourages “members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to enroll as organ donors and prayerfully support those who have received an organ transplant.
The Church of Christ Scientist has no specific position regarding organ and tissue donation. The question of organ donation is left up to the individual church member to decide.
The Church of The Nazarene
The Church of the Nazarene encourages its members, who do not object personally, to support donor/recipient anatomical organs through living wills and trusts. Further, they appeal for a morally and ethically fair distribution of organs to those qualified to receive them.
The Episcopal Church passed a resolution in 1982 that recognizes the life-giving benefits of organ, blood and tissue donation. All Christians are encouraged to become donors “as a part of their ministry to serve others in the name of Christ, who gave His life, that we may have life in its fullness.
The Greek Orthodox Church supports donation, as long as the organs and tissue are to better human life, either through transplantation or research leading to the improvements in the treatment and prevention of disease.
Gypsies are a people of different ethnic groups without a formalized religion. They share common folk beliefs and tend to oppose organ donation. Their opposition is connected with their beliefs about the afterlife. Traditional belief contends that for one year after death the soul retraces its steps. Thus, the body must remain intact, because the soul maintains its physical shape.
According to the Hindu Temple Society of North America, religious law does not prohibit Hindus from donating their organs. This act is an individual’s decision. H.L. Trivedi, in Transplantation Proceedings, stated that, “Hindu mythology has stories in which the parts of the human body are used for the benefit of other humans and society. There is nothing in the Hindu religion indicating that parts of humans, dead or alive, cannot be used to alleviate the suffering of other humans.
Independent Conservative Evangelical
Generally, Evangelicals have no opposition to organ and tissue donation. Each church is autonomous and leaves the decision to donate up to the individual.
The religion of Islam strongly believes in the principle of saving human lives. The Noble Qur’an references this principle in several chapters (see below).
“…and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people” (ch.5, v. 32).
“…but do good; for Allah loveth those who do good” (ch.2, v. 195).
“Whatever of good ye give benefits your own souls, and ye shall only do so seeking the “Face” of Allah. Whatever good ye give, shall be rendered back to you, and ye shall not Be dealt with unjustly” (ch.2, v. 272).
A. Sachedina in his Transplantation Proceedings article (1990), “the majority of the Muslim scholars belonging to various schools of Islamic law have invoked the principle of the priority of saving human life, and have permitted the organ transplant as a necessity to procure that noble end.
According to their national headquarters, the Watchtower Society, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe donation is a matter of individual decision. Jehovah’s Witnesses are often assumed to be opposed to donation because of their belief against blood transfusion. However, this merely means that all blood must be removed from the organs and tissue before being transplanted. In addition, it would not be acceptable for an organ donor to receive blood as part of the organ recovery process
All four branches of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist) support and encourage donation. In 1991, the Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox) approved organ donations as permissible, even required, from brain dead patients. Both the Reform and Conservative movements also have policy statements strongly supporting donation. Judaism teaches that the saving of a human life takes precedence over maintaining the sanctity of the human body. Organ donation is the only mitzot, or good deed, an individual can perform after death.
Lutherans passed a resolution in 1984 stating that donation contributes to the well-being of humanity and can be “an expression of sacrificial love for a neighbor in need.” They call on members “to consider donating…and to make any necessary family and legal arrangements, including the use of a signed donor card.
Mennonites have no formal position on donation, but are not opposed to it. They believe the decision to donate is up to the individual and/or his or her family.
The Moravian Church has made no statement addressing organ and tissue donation or transplantation. Robert E. Sawyer, President, Provincial Elders Conference, Moravian Church of America, Southern Province, states, “There is nothing in our doctrine or policy that would prevent a Moravian pastor from assisting a family in making a decision to donate or not to donate.” It is, therefore, a matter of individual choice.
Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believes the decision to donate is an individual one made in conjunction with family, medical personnel and prayer. Jerry Cahill, Director of Public Affairs for the Mormon Church, says, “Mormons must individually weigh the advantages and disadvantages of transplantation and choose the one that will bring them peace and comfort. The Church does not interpose any objection to an individual decision in favor of organ and tissue donation.
Pentecostals believe that the decision to donate should be left up to the individual.
Presbyterians encourage and support donation. They respect a person’s right to make decisions regarding his or her own body.
Protestants encourage and endorse organ donation. The Protestant faiths respect an individual’s conscience and a person’s right to make decisions regarding his or her own body. Reverend James W. Rassbach, Lutheran Board of Communication Services, Missouri-Synod, says “We accept and believe that our Lord Jesus Christ came to give life and give it in abundance. Organ donations enable more abundant life, alleviate pain and suffering and are an expression of love in times of tragedy.
Donation and transplantation are strongly encouraged. They have many transplant hospitals, including Florida Hospital in Orlando and Loma Linda in California, which specialize in pediatric heart transplants.
In Shinto, the dead body is considered to be impure and dangerous, and thus quite powerful. “In old belief context, injuring a dead body is a serious crime,” according to E. Namihira in his article, Shinto Concept Concerning the Dead Human Body. “To this day it is difficult to obtain consent from bereaved families for organ donation or dissection for medical education or pathological anatomy…the Japanese regard them all in the sense of injuring a dead body.” Families are often concerned that they not injure the itai, the relationship between the dead person and the bereaved people.
Society of Friends (Quakers)
Organ and tissue donation is widely believed to be an individual decision. The Society of Friends does not have an official position on donation.
Organ and tissue donation is widely supported by Unitarian Universalists. They view it as an act of love and selfless giving.
united Church of Christ
Reverend Jay Lintner, Director, Washington Office of the United Church of Christ Office for Church in Society, states, “United Church of Christ people, churches and agencies are extremely and overwhelmingly supportive of organ sharing. The General Synod has never spoken to this issue because, in general, the Synod speaks on more controversial issues, and there is no controversy about organ sharing, just as there is no controversy about blood donation in the denomination. Any organized effort to get the General Synod delegates or individual churches to sign organ donation cards would meet with generally positive responses.
The United Methodist Church issued the following policy statement regarding organ and tissue donation:
We believe that organ transplantation and organ donation are acts of charity, agape love, and self-sacrifice. We recognize the life-giving benefits of organ and other tissue donation and encourage all people of faith to become organ and tissue donors as a part of their love and ministry to others in need. We urge that it be done in an environment of respect for deceased and living donors and for the benefit of the recipients, and following protocols that carefully prevent abuse to donors and their families.
The United Methodist Church participates in the observation of National Donor Sabbath to help increase awareness of the critical need for organs and tissues and the miracle of transplantation. This annual interfaith celebration of life stresses the importance of donation. Religious leaders who participate in discussions of donation with their congregants can affirm that choosing to be an organ and tissue donor offers the opportunity to share the greatest blessing of all — the gift of life.
The Wesleyan Church supports donation as a way of helping others. They believe that God’s “ability to resurrect us is not dependent on whether or not all our parts were connected at death.” They also support research and in 1989 noted in a task force on public morals and social concerns that “one of the ways that a Christian can do good is to request that their body be donated to a medical school for use in teaching.