Organ Donation: A Christian Perspective
7 July 2011 Hits:5867
The Victorian State Government is considering a “presumed consent” system for organ donation to replace the current system. At present, people who want to donate their organs at death need to register their intentions. In the new system, it would be presumed that everyone consents to donate their organs unless they specify otherwise. Western Australia is currently introducing presumed consent. This has been standard practice in Spain, France, Belgium and Sweden for some time.
I think this is an excellent idea because right now, only one in 10 Victorian adults are registered organ donors – and many of those never have their final wishes fulfilled because grieving families often block the wishes of the deceased. Currently, about 1,700 Australians are waiting for organ donations. Last year only 309 donors gave organs that saved 931 recipients. So, what is a Christian view of organ donation?
Many Christians may fail to donate organs because of the idea that a total body will be necessary at the resurrection. Carroll Simcox in “The Case of the Missing Liver” addresses this concern (to view this article, click on the link at the end of this blog). The view is that, at the resurrection the risk exists of someone’s body missing vital organs or, worse still, organs flying out of the recipients and finding their home once again in the donor! This concern can be quickly squashed by a proper understanding of 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 which teaches that there is a tremendous difference between the physical body at death, which may be buried, cremated and return to dust (Genesis 3:19), and the spiritual body of the resurrection.
Others may be concerned that organ donation and transplantation is interfering with the natural order. Some people feel that organ transplantation is contrary to natural law, supporting the concept on the basis of the inevitable rejection by one’s body of a newly transplanted organ or tissue. Developing technology, however, has decreased the risks of rejection. In the early 17th century the practice of blood transfusions resulted in many deaths because incompatible blood was given. Then in 1900 Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types and thus eliminated the extreme risks involved in transfusions. Technological advances continue to eliminate the rejection of organs through closely screening donors and recipients, and then developing medications that will combat specific rejection of the transplanted organs.
It is my belief that the Bible supports medical, technological and scientific breakthroughs. In Genesis 1:28 God commands humanity to kabash, or take charge of earth. The Bible also gives many accounts of intervention to extend life or improve its quality. One example is Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44). This event extended Lazarus’s life and gave him and his family new opportunities. The Gospel accounts record 23 times that Jesus healed or raised someone from the dead (see John 4:46-53; Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 2:3-12; Luke 18:35-43 and John 5:1-9). Old Testament passages also offer support for prolongation of life. Elijah prayed to God, and the life of the dead child for whom he prayed was restored (1 Kings 17:19-22). Elisha performed a similar act, as life miraculously returned to a dead child (2 Kings 4:32-35).
The other reason why I believe the Bible sanctions organ donation is the repeated command to “Love your neighbour as yourself.” One way to express this love is through modern technology that makes organ donation and transplantation possible. The parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) demonstrated the standard that everyone is a neighbour and that people should be willing to love in a way that meets the needs of their neighbour. This includes giving first aid and the best health care possible. The good Samaritan bandaged wounds, poured on oil and transported the injured man for help. Archibald Robertson says that anointing with oil was the best medical care available in Jesus’ day and that this formula testifies to the importance of medical care along with prayer. Today prolonging life through the best medical technology available and with the power of prayer should be the focus of every person in a similar situation.
Organ donation gives another chance at life to those people who would otherwise die. Jesus taught the Golden Rule, “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). If I – or my wife or children – was dying and an organ transplant could save a life then I would be so grateful if a donor was available. If I would want others to do that for me why wouldn’t I reciprocate? Organ donation is one of the few acts for which people will remember you even after you are dead. Any person can give a new life to at least five individuals. I’m registering as an organ donor as one of my goals for 2011. Will you join me?