Fr. Pat’s Ponderings :: October 22, 2017
The Catholic Church supports and encourages the donation of organs. The Catechism states, “Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as an expression of solidarity.” (CCC 2296)
Donation of organs is means to support and love one’s neighbor and to help those in need. Organ donation can be a means to follow the commandment given by Jesus, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:39)
Pope Francis has indicated that the act of organ donation is “a testimony of love for our neighbor.”
“Catholic health care institutions should encourage and provide the means whereby those who wish to do so may arrange for the donation of their organs and bodily tissue, for ethically legitimate purposes, so that they may be used for donation and research after death.” (ERD 63)
Organ transplants from living donors can also be done, such as donating a kidney to a family member. The Catechism states, “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.”
Importantly, the principle is that the organ donation “will not sacrifice or seriously impair any essential bodily function [of the donor] and the anticipated benefit to the recipient is proportionate to the harm done to the donor.” (ERD 30)
The integrity and wholeness of the donor is to be safeguarded. The freedom of the donor is to be respected, as the Catechism states, “It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent.” (CCC 2296)
Donation of organs to be done at death can create tension between the desire and good of donating organs with having and determining certainty of death of the donor. Pressure can exist to determine death as soon as possible so as to increase the chances of a successful organ donation.
Ethical conduct and protocol provides that the person has died before transplantation. “Such organs should not be removed until it has been medically determined that the patient has died. In order to prevent any conflict of interest, the physician who determines death should not be a member of the transplant team.” (ERD 64)
Thus, the importance of separation of medical decision making between the donor and the prospective donee.
“The determination of death should be made by the physician or competent medical authority in accordance with responsible and commonly accepted scientific criteria.” (ERD 62)
“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.” (CCC 2296)
Organ donation is a blessing to mankind, but along with this advance includes an awareness of important issues, such as determining when death has occurred for a person.
CCC = Catechism of the Catholic Church
ERD = USCCB: Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (2009)