Organ Donation and Transplants

Martyr Archil II the King of Georgia

Martyr Archil II the King of Georgia

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

by V. Reverend Father George Alberts

Organ Donation and Transplants

Several issues exist here. Jesus tells us "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (St. John 15:13). What greater love can we express than donating an organ that we have no more use for in order to save a life? We are literally saving someone from death. But a different approach looks at what Saint Paul says: "Do you not know that you are God's temple, and that God's Holy Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy and that temple you are" (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Is it right, then, to cut up this temple and remove parts of it even if it means bettering or saving a life? What organs, if any, really matter; the heart, the lungs, the brain? Can't God resurrect our body if we donate parts of it to save others? Is dying "God's will"? If I have a terminal illness, why should I want a transplant? Shouldn't I allow myself to die naturally?

These are difficult questions that have divided even the "expert" Church theologians. Some seem to favor the "lay down one's life" idea. They feel that if a life can be saved, why not save it. After all, it was not God's will that man should die. We should fight death until our last breath. Besides, God can resurrect us with or without all of our organs (Ezek. 37:1-14). Even though the body was the "temple of the Holy Spirit" during life, removing the organs after or just before death is not a defilement but a type of offering of ourselves to others in need.

On the other hand, you have some who feel that the body should not be defiled either before or after death. It is still sacred even when our life is over simply because it was the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this, it should remain whole with all of its parts untouched unless they were destroyed by disease or the result of an accident. They look at the removal of organs as a violation of the body, the former temple.

You also find some whose views fall somewhat in the middle. They feel that "minor things" like corneas or bone narrow are not a problem. They also believe that major organs like the heart should not be removed. They look at the biblical references to the heart as well as its medical function of keeping the body alive. The same might be said for the lungs that give us breath and sustain our life. How do you determine what is and is not acceptable, since even the theologians are divided?

We need to ask ourselves how we feel about this issue. Which of these views best reflects our own feelings and beliefs? We need to talk to our Spiritual Father about it also. Even though the views differ, there are some points upon which they all agree:

  1. No one should be forced by anyone else to donate his or her organs. We must make sure that the person whose organs are taken made it clear that he wanted his organs donated. A gift is to be given freely at the will of the one giving it, not taken from him. If it is taken, it is not a true gift.
  2. Someone whose life will be put in danger by the donation should not make donations.
  3. Likewise, organ donations should not be made to the point of the suicide of the donor. In other words, this means no vital organs from a living donor, which, if removed, could cause their death.
  4. It is also wrong to hasten or cause the death of a donor.
  5. Finally, the Church does not condemn those who choose not to be donors.

We also have another problem today with fetal and stem cell research. This could involve people having abortions in order to save their own life or help a family member or friend. It can also lead to abortions being used as moneymakers where the woman is paid to have an abortion much like some are paid to donate their blood. The way is opened up for fertilized eggs developing into embryos to be killed in order to test theories and study results of medical trials. The Church cannot condone this destruction of innocents.

Finally, while some would disagree on the issue or organ donations by humans, what about animals? Why not transplant a monkey's heart or a cow's lungs into a patient in need?

This issue seems to be more clear-cut. First of all, the animal is not "freely giving" its organs for the higher purpose of saving some one's life. Second, God's creation should not be tampered with. It is a warping of His creation to mix and match the organs of animals and humans. You can probably see it more clearly if you ask yourself "would I donate my kidneys to keep a cow alive?" What would give me the right to take a kidney from a cow, or any other animal, just because I want to use it? Remember, donating means we freely give. They can't freely give!

These are just a few of the moral and ethical questions you will have to face in your lifetime. There will be many, many more as our knowledge and technology increases. When faced with a moral dilemma, do some research. Ask yourself the key questions you learned, talk with your Spiritual Father about it and pray about it. Ask God to help you make the right decision.

Next: Morality IV--Death and Dying, Euthanasia

Abortion and Suicide


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George