Religious Attitudes About Donation

Most major religions support donation for transplantation, and it is generally held that donation for the benefit of others is a demonstration of faith and love for one’s fellow man. Anyone with questions about their faith’s position on donation should consult with their clergy or spiritual adviser.

(This information is based on materials prepared by the American Council on Transplantation.)

Amish – The Amish consent to donation if they know it is for the health and welfare of the transplant recipient. They may be reluctant to consent if the transplant outcome is known to be questionable.

Buddhism – Buddhists believe that organ donation is a matter that should be left to an individual’s conscience. There is no written resolution on the issue. Rev. Gyornay Masao, President and Founder of the Buddhist Temple of Chicago, says, “We honor those people who donate their bodies and organs to the advancement of medical science and to saving lives.”

Catholicism – Roman Catholics view donation as an act of charity, fraternal love, and self sacrifice. Transplants are ethically and morally acceptable in the Vatican.

The Church of Christ Scientist – Christian Scientists do no take a specific position on transplants or donation. Christian Scientists normally rely on spiritual rather than medical means of healing. The question of donation is left to the individual church member.

Greek Orthodox – According to Rev. Dr. Milton Efthimiou, a spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America, “We are not against organ donation provided the organs in question are used for the purpose intended—and not for research or experiment.”

Gypsies – Gypsies are, on the whole, against donation. Although they have no formal resolution, their opposition is associated with their belief about the afterlife. Gypsies believe that for one year after a person dies, the soul retraces its steps. All of the body parts must be intact because the soul maintains a physical shape.

Hinduism – Hindus are not prohibited by religious law from donating, according to the Hindu Temple Society of North America. The act is an individual decision.

Islam – In 1983, the Moslem Religious Council initially rejected organ donation by followers of Islam, but it has revised its position, provided donors consent in writing before their deaths. The organs of Moslem donors must be transplanted immediately and not stored in organ banks.

Jehovah’s Witnesses – According to the Watch Tower Society, the legal corporation for the religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not encourage organ donation but believe it is a matter best left to an individual’s conscience. All organs and tissues, however, must be completely drained of blood before transplantation.

Judaism – Judaism teaches that saving a life takes precedence over maintaining the sanctity of the human body. A direct transplant is preferred. According to Rabbi Moses Tendler, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, Yeshiva University, New York, and an expert on medical ethics, “If one is in a position to donate an organ to save another’s life, it’s obligatory to do so, even if the donor never knows who the beneficiary is.” All segments of the Jewish religion including Orthodox Jews support donation, although there may be some reluctance among Hasidic Jews.

Mormons – The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints issued a policy statement in 1974 which stated that the “question of whether one should will bodily organs to be used as transplants or for research after death must be answered from deep within the conscience of the individual involved.”

Protestantism – Protestants generally encourage and endorse organ donation. The Protestant faith respects an individual’s conscience and a person’s right to make decisions regarding his or her own body. Lutheran Rev. James W. Rassbach of the Board of Communication Services, Missouri-Synod, says, “We accept and believe that our Lord Jesus Christ came to give life and to give it in abundance. Organ donations enable more abundant life, alleviate pain and suffering, and are an expression of love in times of tragedy.” In a 1984 resolution supporting donation, the United Methodist Church states that “selfless consideration for the health and welfare of others is at the heart of the Christian ethic.” Other Protestants have no official policy but regard donation as a matter of individual conscience. These include the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the Friends Religious Society (Quakers), and the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

The fact sheet was prepared by the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation, a nonprofit service organization dedicated to providing quality tissue through a commitment to excellence in education, research, recovery, and care for recipients, donors, and their families.