Thursday, June 10, 2010

Is Organ Donation OK?

Q - I heard that you can't be a Catholic Saint if you donate your organs. Is this true?

A - Thanks for the question. No it is not true. The Catholic Church upholds that organ donation is a good thing, in most cases. Thus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says.
Organ transplants are not morally acceptable if the donor or those who legitimately speak for him have not given their informed consent. Organ transplants conform with the moral law and can be meritorious if the physical and psychological dangers and risk incurred by the donor are proportionate to the good sought for the recipient. It is morally inadmissible directly to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of the other persons - CCC, 2296.
John Paul II said:
The Gospel of life is to be celebrated above all in daily living, which should be filled with self-giving love for others....Over and above such outstanding moments, there is an everyday heroism, made up of gestures of sharing, big or small, which build up an authentic culture of life. A particularly praiseworthy example of such gestures is the donation of organs, performed in an ethically acceptable manner, with a view to offering a chance of health and even of life itself to the sick who sometimes have no other hope - Evangelium Vitae, 86.
Thus, as long as organ donations conform to the moral law and don't infringe upon the health or life of another person, they can be morally licit and even acts of charity. So, someone could still be canonized if they were an organ donor.


Shapes said...

If I remember correctly, Catholics cannot in good conscience donate certain organs such as the heart, because in order to donate the organ, the donor must first be killed basically, i.e. commit suicide in effect. I feel like there was another organ too like this but I can't remember which.

Christina said...

I recently saw the movie "Seven Pounds" and it gets this very thing wrong. It's a story about a guy contemplating suicide and he's going to donate the organs when he's dead. When he falls in love with one of his to be recipients he considers not going through with it, but then "she needs a heart" so he kills himself anyway.

And the movie portrays all this as a good thing. Actually, I think the problem is more that people think the means justify the ends. It is never morally licit to do evil in order to (hopefully) have a good outcome.

Dave said...

Over half of the 107,000 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 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.

Aquinas said...

Dave so you suggest not giving charity freely, interesting theory. I'm sure the Catholic Church would not agree with you on that one.

Ben Trovato said...

This is quite a complex issue. In broad terms, organs can only be taken from living bodies, as they deteriorate too rapidly once blood circulation stops.

To overcome this, medics have redefined death, to the extent that Patient Concern on their campaign site, say “We also believe that giving general anaesthetic should be mandatory before organs are removed from donors who are still breathing.”

Who are still breathing? Anaesthetic? and we are meant to believe these are dead donors?

So Catholics may not in good conscience donate organs (eg heart) that require them to be dead (ie killed) but may donate organs without which they can still live (eg one kidney).

See my blog and follow link to organ donation for posts with more detail and links to the Catholic Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics discussion documents on this.