Organ Donor Awareness Week

It is also, perhaps, a good time for us as Catholics to familiarize ourselves with the position of the Catholic Church on organ donation for transplantation as well as with some of the moral principles which are involved.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states

2296 Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good that is sought for the recipient. Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorous act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent. Moreover, it is not morally admissible directly to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons.

Some transplants, such as bone marrow, occur among the living. The majority of transplants, however, are postmortem transplants; that is, they are donations that occur after death. These would include donations such as a heart, lung, liver, or kidney. Since the time of Pope Pius XII, the Church has deemed both types of transplant as acceptable, based on the principle of fraternal charity. However, certain requirements must be met.

In the case of living donors, the recipient’s need must be serious with no other treatment options. The benefit to the recipient must be proportionate to the risk taken by the donor. Finally, there must be free, informed consent from the donor, without coercion.

In the case of deceased donors, vital organs that occur singly in the body may only be removed after death. The donor’s consent must be given well in advance, freely and in writing or in discussion with loved ones. Finally, there must be moral certainty that the donor is dead.

 

There are several clear and well-written articles on the subject of Catholics and organ donation to be found on the Internet.

Giving something of ourselves: A Message on Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation was prepared by the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) and the Catholic Health Association of Canada. It may be read in its entirety at http://www.chac.ca/resources/other_resources/giving.pdf

The article Organ Donation: A Catholic Perspective was prepared by the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute and can be found at

http://www.ccbi-utoronto.ca/documents/ODB.pdf