Organ and tissue donation saves and heals lives and is a generous act supported by all major religions. Learn how each religion views organ and tissue donation.
Organ and tissue donation is viewed as an act of neighborly love and charity by these denominations. They encourage all members to support donation as a way of helping others.
The Amish consent to donation if they know it is for the health and welfare of the transplant recipient. They believe that since God created the human body, it is God who heals. However, they are not forbidden from using modern medical services, including surgery, hospitalization, dental work, anesthesia, blood transfusions, or immunization.
The Church has no official policy regarding donation. The decision to donate is left up to the individual. Donation is highly supported by the denomination.
“We identify ourselves as Christians, which means Christ-like. So if he is willing to share, we ought to be willing to share… if you care, you should share.”
—Pastor Edwin H. Watkins, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, San Francisco, CA
Baha’i law allows for organ donation to be decided upon by an individual or their family members. The main provision is that the donor’s remains are buried (versus being cremated), and must be interred within an hour’s journey from the place of death.
(The Baha’i faith has no clergy and it’s administration is accomplished through elected local, national and international councils.)
“Baha’u’llah, the guardian of the Baha’i faith, exhorted his followers to ‘be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge…be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression.’”
—Carelle Kariminaesh, member, Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of San Mateo, CA
Though Baptists generally believe that organ and tissue donation and transplantation are ultimately matters of personal conscience, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, adopted a resolution in 1988 encouraging physicians to request organ donation in appropriate circumstances and to “…encourage voluntarism regarding organ donations in the spirit of stewardship, compassion for the needs of others and alleviating suffering.” Other Baptist groups have supported organ and tissue donation as an act of charity and leave the decision to donate up to the individual.
Buddhists believe organ donation is a matter that should be left to an individual’s conscience.
“Organ donation is one of the greatest acts of compassion, the ultimate final act for an individual at the end of one’s life.”
—Venerable Master Cheng Yen, Buddhist Nun; Founder, Tzu Chi Foundation
“Organ donation is a serious practice of dharma. It is possible to donate a part of your liver and kidney, as with modern expertise donating does not mean sacrificing your own life. It is better to offer your organ to poor and needy people rather than let it dry in a coffin.”
—His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama
“The Catholic Church would promote the fact that there is a need for organ donors and that Christians should accept this as a challenge to their generosity and fraternal love’ so long as ethical principles are followed.”
—Pope John Paul II
“The Christian Church encourages organ and tissue donation, stating that we were created for God’s glory and for sharing God’s love. A 1985 resolution, adopted by the General Assembly, encourages ‘members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to enroll as organ donors and prayerfully support those who have received an organ transplant.’
—Pastor Ralph Su, Senior Pastor, Canaan Taiwanese Christian Church, San Jose, CA
The Church of Christ Scientist takes no specific position on transplants or organ donation as distinct from other medical or surgical procedures. Christian Scientists are free to choose whatever form of medical treatment they desire, including an organ transplant. The question of organ donation is the individual decision of church members.
The Episcopal Church recognizes the life-giving benefits of organ, blood, and tissue donation. All Christians are encouraged to become organ, blood, and tissue donors “as part of their ministry to others in the name of Christ, who gave His life that we may have life in its fullness.”
According to Rev. Dr. Milton Efthimiou, Director of the Department of Church and Society for the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America, “the Greek Orthodox Church is not opposed to organ donation as long as the organs and tissue in question are used to better human life, i.e., for transplantation or for research that will lead to improvements in the treatment and prevention of disease.”
Gypsies tend to be against organ donation. Although they have no formal resolution, their opposition is associated with their belief in the afterlife. Gypsies believe that for one year after a person dies, the soul retraces its steps. All parts of the body must remain intact because the soul maintains a physical shape.
Hindus are not prohibited by religious law from donating their organs, according to the Hindu Temple Society of North America. In fact, Hindu mythology includes stories in which parts of the human body are used for the benefit of other humans and society. The act is an individual decision.
Generally, Evangelicals have had no opposition to organ and tissue donation. Donation is an individual decision.
Muslims believe in the principle of saving human lives, and permit organ transplants as a means of achieving that noble end.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe donation is a matter best left to an individual’s conscience. All organs and tissue, however, must be completely drained of blood before transplantation.
All four branches of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist) support and encourage donation. Says Orthodox Rabbi Moses Tendier, “if one is in the 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 will be. The basic principle of Jewish ethics — ‘the infinite worth of the human being’ — also includes donation of corneas, since eyesight restoration is considered a life-saving operation.” In 1991, the Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox) approved organ donations as permissible, and even required, from brain-dead patients. The reform movement looks upon the transplant program favorably. Rabbi Richard Address, Director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations Bio-Ethics Committee, stated that, “Judaic Responsa materials provide a positive approach and by and large the North American Reform Jewish community approves of transplantation.”
Rabbi Melanie Aron of Congregation Shir Hadash says is it a “mitzvah, or commandment of Jewish law, to do what you can do save the life of another.” She’s speaking out in support of donation in her Los Gatos community and her congregation of more than 600 members.
“It is not merely permissible for a Jew to bequeath his organs for transplantation following his death, it is a mitzvah for him to do so, in order to save one life, or several lives.”
—Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin, Former Chair, Law Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel; President and Professor of Jewish Law, Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem
In 1984, the Lutheran Church in America passed a resolution stating that donation contributes to the well-being of humanity and can be “…an expression of sacrificial love for a neighbor in need.” They call on members to consider donating organs and to make any necessary family and legal arrangements, including the use of a signed donor card.
Mennonites have no formal position on donation, but are not opposed to it. They leave the decision to the individual or his/her family.
The Moravian Church has made no statement addressing organ and tissue donation or transplantation. Robert E. Sawyer, President, Provincial Elders Conference, Moravian Church of America, Southern Province, states, “There is nothing in our doctrine or policy that would prevent a Moravian pastor from assisting a family in making a decision to donate or not to donate an organ.” It is, therefore, a matter of individual choice.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints considers the decision to donate organs a selfless act that often results in great benefit and the decision to donate for medical purposes, or the decision to authorize donation from a deceased family member is made by the individual or deceased member’s family. The Church states that the decision should be made after receiving competent medical counsel and confirmation through prayer.
Pentecostals leave the decision to donate up to the individual.
“The Word says: “It is better to give than to receive.” Organ donation is the gift that keeps on giving.”
—Pastors Brondon and Maria Reems, Center of Hope Community Church, Oakland, CA
Listen to Bishop Ernestine Reems’ commitment to donation.
Presbyterians encourage and endorse donation. It’s an individual’s right to make decisions regarding his or her own body.
Donation and transplantation are strongly encouraged. Seventh-Day Adventists have many transplant hospitals, including Loma Linda in California, which specializes in pediatric heart transplantation.
In Shinto, the dead body is considered impure and dangerous, and thus quite powerful. Injuring a dead body is a serious crime. It is difficult to obtain consent from bereaved families for organ donation or dissection for medical education or pathological anatomy because Shintos relate donation to injuring a dead body. Families are concerned that they not injure the itai, the relationship between the dead person and the bereaved people.
Quakers do not have an official position. They believe that organ and tissue donation is an individual decision.
Organ and tissue donation is widely supported by Unitarian Universalists. They view it as an act of love and selfless giving.
Reverend Jay Lintner stated, “United Church of Christ people, churches and agencies are extremely and overwhelmingly supportive of organ sharing. The General Synod has never spoken to this issue because, in general, the Synod speaks on more controversial issues, and there is no controversy about organ sharing, just as there is no controversy about blood donation in the denomination. While the General Synod has never spoken about blood donation, blood donation rooms have been set up at several General Synods. Similarly, any organized effort to get the General Synod delegates or individual churches to sign organ donation cards would meet with generally positive responses.”
The United Methodist Church issued a policy statement regarding organ and tissue donation. In it, they state that, “The United Methodist Church recognizes the life-giving benefits of organ and tissue donation, and thereby encourages all Christians to become organ and tissue donors by signing and carrying cards or driver’s licenses, attesting to their commitment of such organs upon their death, to those in need, as a part of their ministry to others in the name of Christ, who gave his life that we might have life in its fullness.” A 1992 resolution states, “Donation is to be encouraged, assuming appropriate safeguards against hastening death and determination of death by reliable criteria.” The resolution further states, “Pastoral-care persons should be willing to explore these options as a normal part of conversation with patients and their families.”
“Organ donation is an act of charity, love and self-sacrifice. We encourage all people of faith to become donors.”
—Pastor Gail Chiew, Good Samaritan Methodist Church, Sunnyvale, CA