Religious Views on Donation
Select a religion below to view each stance on organ donation.
Organ and tissue donation is viewed as an act of neighborly love and charity. They encourage all members to support donation as a way of helping others.
Organ and tissue donation is highly supported by the denomination. The Church has no official policy regarding donation and leaves the decision to donate up to the individual.
The Bahai faith believes that transplants are acceptable if prescribed by medical authorities, and are permitted to donate their bodies for research and for restorative purposes.
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 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.”
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 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 of disease.”
The religion of Islam strongly believes in the principle of saving human lives. According to A. Sachedina in his Transplantation Proceedings (1990) article, Islamic Views on Organ Transplantation, “…the majority of the Muslim scholars belonging to various schools of Islamic law have invoked the principle of priority of saving human life and have permitted the organ transplant as a necessity to procure that noble end.”
All four branches of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist) support and encourage donation. According to Orthodox Rabbi Moses Tendler, Chairman of the Bioethics Commission of the Rabbinical Council of America, “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,’ includes donation.” In 1991, the Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox) approved organ donation as permissible, and even required from brain-dead patients. The Reform movement looks upon the transplant program favorably.
The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints considers the decision to donate organs a personal 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 Sikh religion stresses the importance of performing noble deeds, and saving a life is considered one of the greatest forms of noble deeds. Therefore organ donation is deemed acceptable to the Sikh religion.
Donation and transplantation are strongly encouraged. They have many transplant hospitals, including Loma Linda in California, which specializes in pediatric heart transplants.
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.”
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 Amish will consent to transplantation if it is believed to further the well being of the transplant recipient. John Hostetler, world-renowned authority on Amish religion and professor of anthropology at Temple University in Philadelphia, states that 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 or immunization.
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 donations in the spirit of stewardship, compassion for the needs of others and alleviating suffering.”
Buddhists believe organ/tissue donation is a matter of individual conscience and place high value on acts of compassion. Reverend Gyomay Masao, president and founder of The Buddhist Temple of Chicago, 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.
Christian Scientists normally rely on spiritual means of healing instead of medical. They are free, however, to choose whatever form of medical treatment they desire, including a transplant. The question of donation is left to the individual church member.
A resolution passed at the Annual Meeting in 1982 encouraged members to “sign and carry Organ Donor Cards.” The resolution also recommended “that it becomes a policy with our pastors, teachers, and counselors to encourage awareness of organ donation in all our congregations.”
According to the Hindu Temple Society of North America, Hindus are not prohibited by religious law 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.”
According to the WatchTower Society, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe donation is a matter of individual decision. Jehovah’s Witnesses are often assumed to be against donation because of their opposition to blood transfusions. However, this merely means that all blood must be removed from the organs and tissue before being transplanted.
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.”
Presbyterians encourage and support donation. They respect a person’s right to make decisions regarding his or her own body.
Pentecostals believe that the decision to donate should be left up to the individual.
Organ/tissue donation is widely supported by Unitarian Universalists. They view it as an act of love and selfless giving.
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.”