Religious Views on Organ Donation and Transplantation
Most religions support organ and tissue donation as a charitable act of
love and giving. This information is provided to help answer some of your
Adapted from: Organ and Tissue Donation: A Reference Guide for Clergy,
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 consent to donation if they know it is for the health and welfare
of the transplant recipient. They believe that since God created the human
body, it is God who heals. However, they are not forbid from using modern
medical services, including surgery, hospitalization, dental work, anesthesia,
blood transfusions or immunization.
Assembly of God
The Church has no official policy regarding donation. The decision to donate
is left up to the individual. Donation is highly supported by the denomination.
Though Baptists generally believe that organ and tissue donation and
transplantation are ultimately matters of personal conscience, 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 donations in the spirit of stewardship, compassion for the needs
of others and alleviating suffering.' Other Baptist groups have supported
organ and tissue donation as an act of charity and leave the decision
to donate up to the individual.
Buddhists believe organ donation is a matter that should be left to an
individual's conscience. Reverend Gyomay Masao, president and founder of
The Buddhist Temple of Chicago and a practicing minister, says, 'We honor
those people who donate their bodies and organs to the advancement of
medical science and to saving lives.' The importance of letting loved ones
know your wishes is stressed.
Catholics view organ donation as an act of charity, fraternal
love and self sacrifice. Transplants are ethically and morally acceptable
to the Vatican. Pope John Paul II stated, "The Catholic Church would promote
the fact that there is a need for organ donors and that 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
Christian Scientists do not take a specific position on transplants or organ
donation. They normally rely on spiritual, rather than medical means for
healing. Organ and tissue donation is an issue that is left to the individual
The Episcopal Church recognizes the life-giving benefits of organ, blood and
tissue donation. All Christians are encouraged to become organ, blood and
tissue donors "as part of their ministry to others in the name of Christ,
who gave His life that we may have life in its fullness."
According to Reverend Dr. Milton Efthimiou, Director of the Department of Church
and Society for the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America, "The
Greek Orthodox Church is not opposed to organ donation as long as the organs
and tissue in question are used to better human life, i.e., for transplantation
or for research that will lead to improvements in the treatment and prevention
Gypsies tend to be against organ donation. Although they have no formal
resolution, their opposition is associated with their belief in the after-life.
Gypsies believe that for one year after a person dies, the soul retraces its
steps. All parts of the body must remain intact because the soul maintains a
Hindus are not prohibited by religious law from donating their organs, according
to the Hindu Temple Society of North America. In fact, Hindu mythology includes
stories in which parts of the human body are used for the benefit of other
humans and society. The act is an individual decision.
Independent Conservative Evangelical
Generally, Evangelicals have had no opposition to organ and tissue donation.
Donation is an individual decision.
Muslims believe in the principle of saving human lives, and permit organ
transplants as a means of achieving that noble end.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe donation is a matter best left to an individual's
conscience. All organs and tissue, however, must be completely drained of blood
All four branches of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and
Reconstructionist) support and encourage donation. Said Orthodox Rabbi Moses
Tendier, "if one is in the position to donate an organ to save another's
life, it's obligatory to do so, even if the donor never knows who the
beneficiary will be. The basic principle of Jewish ethics - 'the
infinite worth of the human being' - also includes donation of corneas, since
eyesight restoration is considered a life-saving operation." In 1991,
the Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox) approved organ donations as
permissible, and even required, from brain-dead patients. The reform movement
looks upon the transplant program favorably. Rabbi Richard Address, Director
of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations Bio-Ethics Committee, stated
that, "Judaic Responsa materials provide a positive approach and by and large
the North American Reform Jewish community approves of transplantation."
In 1984, the Lutheran Church in America passed a resolution 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 organs 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 leave the decision to the individual or his/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 an organ.'
It is, therefore, a matter of individual choice.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints considers the decision to
donate organs a personal one. Individuals must weigh the pros and cons of
transplantation and make a decision which 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 leave the decision to donate up to the individual.
Presbyterians encourage and endorse donation. It's an individual's right to
make decisions regarding his or her own body.
Protestants encourage and endorse organ donation. They believe that Jesus
Christ came to give life and to give life abundance. Donations and
transplants enable more abundant life, alleviate pain and suffering, and are
an expression of love in times of tragedy.
Donation and transplantation are strongly encouraged. Seventh-Day Adventists
have many transplant hospitals, including Loma Linda in California, which
specializes in pediatric heart transplantation.
In Shinto, the dead body is considered impure and dangerous, and thus quite
powerful. In folk tales, injuring a dead body is a serious crime. It is
difficult to obtain consent from bereaved families for organ donation or
dissection for medical education or pathological anatomy because Shintos
relate donation to injuring a dead body. Families are concerned that they
not injure the itai, the relationship between the dead person and the
Society of Friends (Quakers)
Quakers do not have an official position. They believe that organ and tissue
donation is an individual decision.
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 stated, '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. While the General Synod has never spoken about blood donation,
blood donation rooms have been set up at several General Synods. Similarly,
any organized effort to get the General Synod delegates or individual
churches to sign organ donation cards would meet with generally positive
The United Methodist Church issued a policy statement regarding organ and
tissue donation. In it, they state that, "The United Methodist Church
recognizes the life-giving benefits of organ and tissue donation, and thereby
encourages all Christians to become organ and tissue donors by signing and
carrying cards or driver's licenses, attesting to their commitment of such
organs upon their death, to those in need, as a part of their ministry to
others in the name of Christ, who gave his life that we might have life in
its fullness.' A 1992 resolution states, 'Donation is to be encouraged,
assuming appropriate safeguards against hastening death and determination
of death by reliable criteria." The resolution further states,
'Pastoral-care persons should be willing to explore these options as a
normal part of conversation with patients and their families.'
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