I looked for a post on this topic but couldn't find one.
What is the Church's position on the donation of one's organs after they die to be used by someone else in need?
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Posted 23 July 2015 - 02:33 AM
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America encourages the practice. Personally I have mixed feelings. Organ transplantation has created a market for illegal organs, being bought from 3rd-worlders or even taken forcefully from prisoners or captives in China and now ISIS.
It is a lovely thought. However, many feel that having "Organ Donor" on your license is like having a "Do Not Resuscitate" sign around your neck. Doctors might not try so hard to keep you alive if you have the right blood or tissue type for specific organ or tissue transplants.
And some monks are very much against heart transplants. Some believe that the soul actually resides in the organ called the heart and to transplant a heart is to transplant a soul as well. I'm not at all sold on that concept. I suspect there is a semantic misunderstanding going on, but that might just be me.
If you choose not to participate, I don't think the Church will condemn you.
Posted 23 July 2015 - 02:48 AM
The Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church had this to say in a past synodal statement:
XII. 7. The modern transplantology (the theory and practice of the transplantation of organs and tissues) makes it possible to give effective aid to many patients who were earlier doomed to death or severe disability. At the same time, the development of this sphere of medicine, increasing the need for necessary organs, generates certain ethical problems and can present a threat to society. Thus, the unscrupulous propaganda of donoring and the commercialisation of transplanting create prerequisites for trade in parts of the human body, thus threatening the life and health of people. The Church believes that human organs cannot be viewed as objects of purchase and sale. The transplantation of organs from a living donor can be based only on the voluntary self-sacrifice for the sake of another's life. In this case, the consent to explantation (removal of an organ) becomes a manifestation of love and compassion. However, a potential donor should be fully informed about possible consequences of the explantation of his organ for his health. The explantation that presents an immediate threat to the life of a donor is morally inadmissible. The most common of all is the practice of taking organs from people who have just died. In these cases, any uncertainty as to the moment of death should be excluded. It is unacceptable to shorten the life of one, also by refusing him the life-supporting treatment, in order to prolong the life of another.
The Church confesses, on the basis of Divine Revelation, the faith in the bodily resurrection of the dead (Is. 26:19; Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:42-44, 52-54; Phil. 3:21). In the Christian burial, the Church expressed the reverence that befits the body of a dead. However, the posthumous giving of organs and tissues can be a manifestation of love spreading also to the other side of death. Such donation or will cannot be considered a duty. Therefore, the voluntary consent of a donor in his lifetime is the condition on which explantation can be legitimate and ethically acceptable. If doctors do not know the will of a potential donor, they should, if necessary, find it out the will of a dying or dead person from his relatives. The so-called presumptive consent of a potential donor to the removal of his organs and tissues, sealed in the legislation of some countries, is considered by the Church to be an inadmissible violation of human freedom.
A recipient assimilates donor organs and tissues entering his personal spiritual and physical integrity. Therefore, in no circumstances moral justification can be given to the transplantation that threatens the identity of a recipient, affecting his uniqueness as personality and representative of a species. It is especially important to remember this condition in solving problems involved in the transplantation of animal organs and tissues.
Posted 23 July 2015 - 01:29 PM
Olga cited, “The most common of all is the practice of taking organs from people who have just died. In these cases, any uncertainty as to the moment of death should be excluded. It is unacceptable to shorten the life of one, also by refusing him the life-supporting treatment, in order to prolong the life of another.”
I will also offer my two cents from my own admittedly limited experience on this topic:
We had a death in our family a while back, and my dying family member had “organ donor” on their driver’s license. Our initial reaction was, therefore, to donate. But then the “organ donor representative” (who was a person separate from the doctor) was very vague and elusive about how the process worked. I had to really press him on exactly what would happen. He told us (upon being pressed—he did not offer this information) that the donation could only come from the family member while their heart was still beating. So what would happen was they would have a doctor come in and “certify” that the family member was in fact “brain dead”, then they would take my family member away from all of us (even if they were still breathing and their heart was beating on their own) and take the organs. We would not therefore even get to be there when the family member took their last breath. Mind you, the representative did not say this explicitly. I had to piece it together from his misleading explanation. When I repeated that exact summary back to him, he said, “Yes, that’s about right.”
I don’t know if all hospitals are like that, or if it is true that organs can always only be taken when the person is still breathing/heart is beating, but that was my experience. And you can imagine how hard it is to dissect truth from fiction, and make such decisions when you are in such a difficult and tragic situation. In any case, I told the man that there was no way we were leaving our family member while they were still breathing, and that was that.
I am aware that many people are saved by donated organs, so I don’t want to come across as anti-donation, but there appears to be a lot of misinformation out there and a real lack of transparency. I admit that I (or that representative) may have been misinformed, but I think whatever decision you make, just make sure that you and your family members are educated about what organ donation really means and give it some thought. As for me, I took the “organ donor” label off my card the next week.
And to the extent someone out there is better educated on this and can offer clarification as to the actual restrictions on taking organs from actually and undisputedly deceased persons, please correct my information.
Edited by John S., 23 July 2015 - 01:35 PM.
Posted 23 July 2015 - 03:08 PM
Having worked for a time as a hospital chaplain, this was one of the areas where I was closely involved with the family. While it is true that an organ is generally harvested while the heart is still beating, the actual situation is often that the person has been brain dead (no neural activity - the brain is completely shut down) for a while and circulation/respiration is maintained artificially - respirators, external pacemakers, pumps, heavy medications, etc - until the organ is actually taken (because the inert body is still the best "storage and maintenance" system for the organ). Left on their own the "last breath" would have been days ago and the heart would have long stopped beating (but for the artificial life support). For this reason alone I am very wary of initiating artificial life support measures since starting them is easy - stopping them, not so much. This is a an area to rely on our spiritual father's counsel and advice - not some hospital staffer (not even the chaplain necessarily - although the chaplain would be a good resource for the pastor).
The text that Olga linked is part of a larger document The Basis of the Social Concept which sets the foundation for addressing many moral issues of modern life. ROCOR also adopted a similar statement years ago with the single alteration that it was not permissible for an Orthodox Christian to give or receive a heart since that is the spiritual center and seat of the soul.
Fr David Moser
Posted 26 July 2015 - 12:39 PM
Posted 26 July 2015 - 12:45 PM
Im not big on organ donation. Except for kidney transplants where you have two and such I believe its just a money making scheme for doctors. There have been improvements made in treatments so the body doesnt reject its new organ, originally there was an over 90% rejection rate.
Kosta, there are places in the world where organ and blood donation are not only conducted on a completely voluntary basis, and without money changing hands, but where it is a criminal offence to traffic organs or to receive payment for them. I live in such a country.
But for me i rarely see the medical profession as some pinnacle of virtue more like a neccesary evil.
Please take your cynicism elsewhere, Kosta. Here is not the place for it.
Posted 26 July 2015 - 01:39 PM
Healthcare in England is paid for from taxation and is free for all at the point of use and delivered by (generally well regarded) medical staff paid salaries by the state. (I for one have no health insurance since it is unnecessary.) In accordance with this ethos, in England (as in some other EU countries such as France), organ donation means what it says: donation: it is entirely voluntary and no money can be charged. Likewise with giving blood (2 million units a year). England has strict regulation and control of organ donation plus EU controls.
Posted 26 July 2015 - 08:57 PM
Kosta, there is a world outside the USA, as Olga and I have tried to tell you, where healthcare is not about the bottom line. In our countries, and others, you cannot choose to get paid for organs - payment is illegal. The 'medical establishment' in our countries does not and cannot gain from organ donation.
Posted 27 July 2015 - 11:20 AM
I am a non-donor and registered as such. Brain death is not death per se; it was defined as death in the 1960s which allowed after this to start organ donation. The fact is that if you are for organ donation it supposes that the cumulative conditions are present :
- brain death is really death (well insurance and death certificate tells the opposite regarding death as the cardio-vascular stop)
- brain death is correctly diagnosed
- brain death is irreversible (such case of reversions had already been seen)
Now, you have to take into account the following facts :
- mistakes have already happened with person coming out of it when thy were about to pull out the organs
- some people coming out from brain death stated they were aware of everything, even the discussions about taking the organs and could correctly describe them
- a pregnant lady in brain death can continue her pregnancy fed with tubes and so on
- a teenager in brain death will have his normal hormonal development
Spiritually speaking, death is regarded as the separation of the soul from the body : could you check a brain death patient that the soul was no longer there with a special tool or instrument ? Personally, I have none.
Basically, there are good catholic resources about the brain death fraud, with doctor Paul Byrne. Unfortunately, the catholic church accepts organ donations as long as the person is dead, but leaving the definition of death to the doctors, which in practice means accepting brain death definition.
In the orthodox environment, an old calendar synod rejected organ donations, unless it does not cause death, which is according to me the best option.
In Athens, July 16/29, 2013
Protocol n. γ-1776
Communiqué on Organ Transplantation and Donation
To all the Clergy and Laity throughout the Nation
Beloved children of the Church of Christ,
The Holy Synod of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians during its session on June 7/20 2013, having investigated assiduously the question of “brain death,” organ transplantation, and “presumed consent,” ruled the following:
1. “Brain death” is an arbitrary term. Death is the definitive cessation of cardiopulmonary function. What is called “brain death” is in essence a condition of grave illness. The harvesting of vital organs from a gravely ill patient accelerates his death and, from an ethical point of view, is murder.
2. Therefore, the extirpation of vital organs for the purpose of transplantation is forbidden. Only the extirpation and transplantation of non-vital organs is permitted, provided that such extirpation will not cause the death of the donor (i.e. the donation of one kidney).
3. What is called “presumed consent” (i.e. the automatic presumption that all are organ donors, with the exception of declared non-donors ) is deemed ethically unacceptable as well. Since, however, such a law has been legislatively approved, all the Faithful are called to declare themselves non-donors according to the attached example , of which the Parish Councils are instructed to provide copies to be distributed at each parish's candle desk. Please note that a deadline has not been placed for such declarations.
To inform the flock, the Holy Synod has decided to organize two theological conferences on the matter at hand in Athens and Larisa, on September 10/23 2013 and September 18/October 1, 2013 respectively. The locations will be announced.
At the command of the Holy Synod
+PHOTIOS of Marathon
Chief-Secretary of the Synod
Translated from the Greek
At the opposite, the State Church of Greece accepted these donations, even accepting brain death as the death i.e migration of the soul from the body.
Regarding the fact that everything linked to organ donation is free, nowadays, there is such a dichotomy between what is officially requested and the reality that we cannot know what happens behind the stages.
Bad news in France by the way, unless you have a non-donor card, you are supposed to be a donor and the doctors will no longer ask the family's authorization if they have no indication about your choices. Well, you are just meat!
Edited by Jean-Serge, 27 July 2015 - 11:22 AM.
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