: Organ Donation and Religion

Organ Donation and Religion

Majority of the religions support the idea of organ and tissue donation as an act of charity and goodwill. Anybody, of any religion, race, caste or creed can be affected by organ failure and will need
organ and tissue donation to survive. Organ allocations are made on the basis of severity of the recipient’s illness, the time spent on the waiting list, and the availability of suitable blood and tissue

The following the view of some religions on organ donation:

There are many references that support the concept of organ donation in Hindu scriptures. Daan is the original word in Sanskrit for donation meaning selfless giving. In the list of the ten Niyamas
(virtuous acts), Daan comes third.  “Of all the things that it is possible to donate, to donate your own body is infinitely more worthwhile.” – The Manusmruti

There are no injunctions in Buddhism for or against organ donation. The death process of an individual is viewed as a very important time that should be treated with the greatest care and respect. The needs and wishes of the dying person must not be compromised by the wish to save a life. Where it is truly the wish of the dying person, it would be seen in that light. “Giving is the greatest of Buddhist virtues. The Buddha in a previous life gave his body to a starving tigress who could not feed her cubs. There are many such Jataka tales some in which, he even gave his eyes to someone who wanted them. What loss do I suffer to give an unwanted organ after my death to give another person life?” – Dr Desmond Biddulph, Chairman of The Buddhist Society, UK.

The Christian faith is based upon the revelation of God in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught people to love one another and embrace the needs of others. Christians believe in eternal life, and
preparing for death should not be feared. They consider organ donation an act of love and a way of following Jesus' example. Christians believe that nothing that happens to our body, before or after death, can impact on our relationship with God.

The Sikh philosophy and teachings support the importance of giving and putting others before oneself. Seva (the act of selfless service, to give without seeking reward or recognition) is at the core
of being a Sikh. Indeed, Guru Nanak (founder of the Sikh faith and first of ten Gurus) and Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Holy Scripture) devoted their lives to humanity and sacrificed their lives looking
after the welfare of others. Seva can also be about donating your organ to another – Sikhism does not attach taboos to organ donation and transplantation and stresses that saving a human life is one of the noblest things you can do. Sikhs also believe that your body does not need all its organs at or after death.

In Islam, there are two schools of thought with regard to organ donation. The human body, whether living or dead, enjoys a special honour and is inviolable, and fundamentally, Islamic law emphasises the preservation of human life. The general rule that ‘necessities permit the prohibited’ (al-darurat tubih al-mahzurat), has been used to support human organ donation with regard to saving or significantly enhancing a life of another provided that the benefit outweighs the personal cost that has to be borne. The following are some verses which have been used to support organ donation:

“Whosoever saves a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.”  Holy Qur’an, chapter 5, vs. 32
Whosoever helps another will be granted help from Allah.” Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

In principle, Judaism sanctions and encourages organ donation in order to save lives (pikuach nefesh). Whether or not the wishes of the dead person are known, it is widely recognised that families are entitled to decide for themselves; and that they will often wish to consult with their own experts in Jewish law and tradition before making a final decision. Judaism holds that organs may not be removed from a donor until death has definitely occurred. For some Jews the ‘brain stem death’ criteria are acceptable. Other Jews will only agree to removal of organs from a ‘non-heart beating’ donor. After donation, it is important to recognise that kavod hamet (showing respect for the dignity of the dead) still applies. In Judaism, avoidance of any further unnecessary interference with the body and immediate internment are again the prime concern.

One who saves a single life – it is as if he has saved an entire world” Pirke D’Rav Eliezer, Chapter 48