Through my study I have become much more concerned about the moral problems surrounding organ donation. I found that the ethics of organ donation and of the declaration of death have a prominent place in the secular forum. Sadly, I did not find much from the churches relating this issue to the Word of God. Jewish and Catholic views were much more easily found than Protestant. The National Kidney Foundation published a list commenting on the position of each major religion on organ donation. Although this information is from 1979 it is still used today. This list claims that Lutheran churches endorse organ donation; that Presbyterian churches encourage and endorse organ and tissue donation and "they respect individual conscience and a person's right to make decisions regarding his or her own body." This ought to alarm us when we consider that "we are not our own we are bought with a price and belong to our Saviour Jesus Christ." We do not have a right to do whatever we want with our own body. Any decision about what to do with our body must be solidly based on the Word of God, for it Òhas given us all things that pertain to life and godliness."
The Presbyterian Church of Canada's official response to organ donation dates from 1969. It accepts the declaration of brain death given by a neurologist without any appeal to Scripture, saying, "From the aspect of the donor, there seems to be no moral problem but supply." With respect to deciding who gets an organ, they say, "this decision, we feel, is left in competent hands," meaning the physicians.
Consider the decision-making process used by physicians in respect to organ donation. A 1989 survey of 195 physicians and nurses working in intensive care units and other settings where organ donors might be found, shows there is considerable uncertainty over exactly how brain death is defined. Physicians continue to debate the diagnosis of brain death. More recently there is increasing pressure to loosen the definition of brain death. Physicians have started the questionable practice of using the term "non-beating heart" donors ("non-beating heart donors" will be explained later.) Physicians are involved in abortions and are using fetuses in transplant research.
In order to respond, we need to become more aware of what is happening. To emphasize the need for awareness, I quote the introduction to a paper titled The Slippery Slope, by Chatham, Ontario, Family Physician, Dr. John Stronks. He writes,
I echo the words of Dr Stronks. It is within this society that we must face pressure to come up with increasing numbers of viable organ donors.
Dr. Stronks goes on to consider how our society and Christians have become so accepting of this ever-growing tide of immoral action. It is the result of the destructive, progressive and aggressive nature of sin. If we want to bring the true light of the Gospel to the world, we must resist the temptation to compromise God's standards and we must reject the flawed morality the world presents. To keep from falling into this temptation, we must not allow sin to lead us down the destructive, progressive path of accepting the immoral as moral.
1. Religious view of Organ/Tissue Donation and Transplantation. Though answers may vary from one denomination to another, research by agencies like the National Kidney Foundation have found that a majority of religions do support organ donation. A few of their finds were reported on the Internet at www.dnaz/OLD/pubedu/religion.html. They state that parts of these religious views were used with permission from Faith of our Patients prepared by a committee on Medicine and Religion, Texas Medical Association, Austin TX, 1979.
2. 1 Corinthians 6
3. 1 Peter 1
4. Reply of the Board of Evangelism and Social Action submitted at the 95th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1969, to Overture No.12, 1968, Presbytery of Peterborough.
5. Summary in Journal Watch, April 28, 1979 of D. Wikler, A.J. Weisgard, "Brain Death' and organ retrieval: a cross section survey of knowledge and concepts among health professionals", JAMA, April 21, 1989. 261:2246.
6. Alan Joyce, "Truly Useful Literature: Brain-Death Dilemmas", Community Ethics, Volume 4, Number 1 (1996).
7. John E. Stronks, "The Slippery slope", Focus, Christian Medical & Dental Society, 1997.