Church of the Brethren
The Church of the Brethren2 commits itself and urges its congregations, institutions, and members to: Inform and educate themselves by taking advantage of resources within their region as to organ and tissue donation. Support and encourage individuals to be in discussion with clergy and family as to their wishes regarding the use of their organs and/or tissues for transplantation upon death. Encourage and support individuals to include within their advance medical directives instructions as to their wishes for organ and tissue donation. This may include the signing and carrying of a Universal Organ Donor Card. Support those living donors who, with prayerful consideration, make an organ or tissue gift, provided that such a gift does not deprive the donor of life itself nor the functional integrity of his or her body. Encourage our clergy to prepare themselves to respond to the special needs of family and friends at the time of organ and tissue procurement.
Roman Catholics view organ and tissue donation as an act of charity and love, as reported in the Catholic publication Origins in 1994.5 Transplants are morally and ethically acceptable to the Vatican. According to Father Leroy Wickowski, Director of the Office of Health Affairs of the Archdiocese of Chicago, “We encourage donation as an act of charity. It is something good that can result from tragedy and a way for families to find comfort by helping others.”
In October 2014, Pope Francis described the act of organ donation as ‘a testimony of love for our neighbor’ when he met with the Transplantation Committee for the Council of Europe (CD-P-TO) who gathered in Rome on Thursday. The Pontiff’s comments came on the same day as the Catholic Church in England and Wales agreed to join the fleshandblood campaign as a national association, which aims “to encourage church congregations to see blood and organ donation as a part of their community participation”.
Pope John Paul II has 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.” Catholic health care institutions should encourage and provide the means whereby those who wish to do so may arrange for the donation of the organs and bodily tissues for the ethically legitimate purposes, so that they may be used for donation and research after death. The following is taken from the New York Organ Donor Network:6 In 1956, Pope Pius XII declared that: “A person may will to dispose of his body and to destine it to ends that are useful, morally irreproachable and even noble, among them the desire to aid the sick and suffering….This decision should not be condemned but positively justified.” In August 2000, Pope John Paul II told attendees at the International Congress on Transplants in Rome: “Transplants are a great step forward in science’s service of man, and not a few people today owe their lives to an organ transplant. Increasingly, the technique of transplants has proven to be a valid means of attaining the primary goal of all medicine—the service of human life.…There is a need to instill in people’s hearts, especially in the hearts of the young, a genuine and deep appreciation of the need for brotherly love, a love that can find expression in the decision to become an organ donor.”In his encyclical letter, Evangelium Vitae (On the Value and Inviolability of Human Life), His Holiness Pope John Paul II speaks of society’s fascination with a “culture of death.” He calls on Catholics and people of good faith everywhere to move from that culture towards a celebration and reflection of the glory of God in a “culture of life. When asked to share my thoughts on the importance of organ donation for this publication, it was Evangelium Vitae that immediately came to mind. In thinking about the glorious gift of life God has given each of us, it would seem that one of the greatest ways an individual can honor that gift is by making a conscious decision to be an organ donor—a decision that enables another’s life to continue—and in a very real and tangible way promotes ‘a culture of life. ‘”Organ donation is, as His Holiness has stated, “a genuine act of love.” The commitment of one person to give the gift of life to another person mirrors an essential foundation upon which the teachings of Christ and the theology of our Church are based. As Saint John tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) By knowingly choosing the donations of one’s bodily organs, one is acting as Christ would act—giving life to humanity.The Catholic Church views organ donation as an act of charity. The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, a set of principles that guide the healing mission of the Church, clearly explains the permissibility of organ donations. In Directive No. 30, we read: “The transplantation of organs from living donors is morally permissible when such a donation will not sacrifice or seriously impair any essential bodily function and the anticipated benefit to the recipient is proportionate to the harm to the donor.” Similarly, Directives No. 63-66 treat organ donation as follows: Directive No. 63: “Catholic health care institutions should encourage and provide the means whereby those who wish to do so may arrange for the donation of their organs and bodily tissue, for ethically legitimate purposes, so that they may be used for donation and research after death.” Directive No. 64: “Such organs should not be removed until it has been medically determined that the patient has died. In order to prevent any conflict of interest, the physician who determines death should not be a member of the transplant team.”The donation of organs in a morally acceptable manner, at the end of life, offers the gifts of health and life to those who are most vulnerable and who are at times without hope. It is one of the many pro-life positions an individual can choose in order to foster a culture that values life in our world.
As to what criteria constitute a “morally acceptable manner,” it is essential that organ transplantation occur in the context of love and respect for the dignity of the human person. There are, of course, parameters in determining when and how organs should be donated. It is the Church’s position that transplanted organs never be offered for sale. They are to be given as a gift of love. Any procedure that commercializes or considers organs as items for exchange or trade is morally unacceptable. The decision as to who should have priority in regards to organ transplantation must be based solely on medical factors and not on such considerations as age, sex, religion, social standing or other similar standards.In addition, it is of the utmost importance that informed consent by the donor and/or donor’s legitimate representatives be had and that vital organs, those that occur singly in the body, are removed only after certain death (the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain activity) has occurred.As Pope John Paul II observes in Evangelium Vitae, “There is an everyday heroism, made up of gestures and sharing, big or small, which build up an authentic culture of life. A particularly praiseworthy example of such gestures is the donation of organs in a morally acceptable manner.”It is for the betterment of humanity, for the love of one’s fellow human beings, that organ donation is undertaken. One of the most powerful ways for individuals to demonstrate love for their neighbor is by making an informed decision to be an organ donor.
There is definite evidence for Christian support of organ donation.6 The Lord demonstrated with his own life how, even in sorrow, love enables us to embrace the needs of others. We can choose to donate our organs to save the lives of many people. The decision to donate at the end of life is the beginning of healing for many others. Healing and saving life is a great gift. Jesus sent his 12 disciples out with the imperative to heal disease and illness: “Heal the sick … freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)“In eternity we will neither have nor need our earthly bodies: former things will pass away, all things will be made new.”
— Revelation 21: 4-5
“I hope that Christian people will seriously and positively consider organ donation. The ready willingness to donate an organ is a clear sign of that sacrificial self-giving for others patterned by Jesus Christ.”
— David Ebor, Archbishop of York
“Every organ transplant has its source in a decision of great ethical value… Here lies the nobility of a gesture which is a genuine act of love. There is a need to instill in people’s hearts a genuine and deep love that can find expression in the decision to become an organ donor.”
— His Holiness Pope John Paul II
“Any act that can save life, such as organ donation, is a great thing and quite acceptable within our faith.”
— Council of African and Afro-Caribbean Churches (UK)
“The Methodist Church has consistently supported organ donation and transplantation in appropriate circumstances, as a means through which healing and health may be made possible.”
— Methodist Church UK
“Christians should generally be encouraged to help others in need, and organ donation can be a very concrete and sacrificial way of helping.”
— The Rt Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
The Christian Church encourages organ and tissue donation, stating that individuals were created for God’s glory and for sharing of 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 does not have a specific position regarding organ donation. According to the First Church of Christ Scientist in Boston, Christian Scientists normally rely on spiritual instead of medical means of healing. They are free, however, to choose whatever form of medical treatment they desire, including a transplant. The question of organ and tissue donation is an individual decision.
Church of the Nazarene
The Church of the Nazarene encourages members who do not object personally to support donor and recipient anatomical gifts through living wills and trusts. Further, the Church appeals for morally and ethically fair distribution of organs to those qualified to receive them (Manual, Church of the Nazarene, 1997-2001, paragraph 904.2).