When to Donate Organs?

fr. earlSuch a pressing ethical question not only affects those on the brink of death, but all of us who might consider becoming organ donors now or in the future. Fr. Earl Fernandes, Dean and Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at the Athenaeum of Ohio, responds in this his monthly column for The Catholic Telegraph.

Recently, I requested prayers for the son-in-law of another member who is awaiting a heart transplant. It was brought to my attention that some have raised serious concerns about the ethical issues relating to primary organ transplants. From the Catechism (CCC 2296 and 2301), it appears that the Church does not forbid primary organ transplants. Are there guidelines issued by the Church concerning this issue?

In 1956 Pope Pius XII spoke approvingly of organ donation when addressing the Italian Association of Cornea Donors. Church teaching about organ donation and transplantation has developed with medical and technological advancements. The Ethical and Religious Directives (n. 30) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops summarize the conditions for organ donation: the transplantation of the organ from living donors is morally permissible when such a donation will not sacrifice or seriously impair any essential bodily function; when the anticipated benefit to the recipient is proportionate to the harm done to the donor; and, when the donor has given free and informed consent.

Commonly, people will donate a paired-organ, such as a kidney, to help save the life of another. To use the language of the Catechism, organ donation is considered to be a “noble and meritorious act” and a gesture of “solidarity”. Organ donation can be seen under the rubric of self-giving or of sharing life. It can be an act of donation and of love, when done willingly and with informed consent. It is a way of giving life and love, even after death.

Continue reading When to Donate Organs?

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