Religious Viewpoints

Religious Viewpoints

All major religions support organ, tissue and eye donation. Still, within each religion there are different schools of thought.

We hope this list will shed some light on donation issues as it relates to your own religion.

In addition, you may wish to contact your clergyperson for additional information and counseling.

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AME (African Methodist Episcopal) and AME Zion (African Methodist Episcopal Zion)
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.
Amish
The Amish will consent to transplantation if it is believed to further the well being of the organ recipient. They believe that as God created the human body, only God can heal it. However, their understanding of the Bible does not prohibit them from using modern medical services including surgery, hospitalization, dental work, anesthesia, blood transfusion or immunization.
Assembly of God
While the church has no official policy on organ and tissue donation, the denomination has been highly supportive of donation in the past. However, the decision to donate is left to each individual.

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Baha'i Faith
The Baha'i Faith consider organ and tissue donation a noble thing to do. Provisions must be made to treat the donor’s body with dignity and to bury the remains within one hour’s travel time (from the hospital to the funeral home). The decision to become an organ and tissue donation, or a recipient, is left up to the individual in consultation with a competent physician.
Baptist
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.
Brethren
The church of the Brethren's Annual Conference in 1993 developed a resolution on organ and tissue donation supporting and encouraging donation. They wrote, "We have the opportunity to help others out of love for Christ, through the donation of organs and tissues."
Buddhism
Buddhists believe that organ and tissue donation is a matter of individual conscience. Acts of compassion are highly valued. Professor Robert Thurman, the chair of religious studies/Jey Tsong Khapa professor of Buddhist studies at Columbia University, and president of Tibet House, stated that the gift of the body is “a karmic advantage to a person.”

Read an exclusive interview about organ donation and Buddhism with Prof. Robert Thurman, who holds the first endowed chair in Buddhist Studies in the West, the Jey Tsong Khapa Chair in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University in New York City. Prof. Thurman is the co-founder, with Richard Gere, of Tibet House in New York City. He is a close personal friend of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and he is the father of five children including the actress, Uma Thurman. The interview appeared in the Spring/Summer 2005 issue of the New York Organ Donor Network’s publication On the Beat. In the interview, Prof. Thurman stated, in part: “The gift of the body is a very great benefit and a boon, like what you’d call a karmic boon, a karmic advantage to a person.”

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Catholicism

Catholics view organ and tissue donation as an act of charity and love. Transplants are morally and ethically acceptable to the Vatican. In August 2000, Pope John Paul II told attendees at the International Congress on Transplants in Rome: “There is a need to instill in people’s hearts, especially in the hearts of the young, a genuine and deep appreciation of the need for brother love, a love that can find expression in the decision to become an organ donor.”

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prior to becoming Pope Benedict XVI, described organ donation as being “an act of love … so long as it is free and spontaneous.” In a February 4, 1999, interview with the ZENIT International News Agency, Cardinal Ratzinger said that he was a registered organ donor. "To donate one's organs is an act of love that is morally licit, so long as it is free and spontaneous." Cardinal Ratzinger disclosed that he was a member of an association of organ donors. "To spontaneously give parts of one's body to help someone in need is a great act of love.”

His Excellency Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, has sent the following message to the New York Organ Donor Network: “Catholics view organ and tissue donation as an act of charity and love. Transplants are morally and ethically consonant with Church teaching. Donations as an act of charity are encouraged. It is something good that can result from tragedy and a way for families to find comfort by helping others. The Catholic Church promotes 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.
The donation of organs in a morally acceptable manner, at the end of life, offers the gifts of health and life to those who are most vulnerable and who are at times without hope. It is one of the many pro-life positions an individual can choose in order to foster a culture that values life in our world. Organ donation should be for the love of one's fellow human beings. One of the most powerful ways for individuals to demonstrate love for their neighbor is by making an informed decision to be an organ donor.
Organ transplantation and donation began with blood transfusion. Man found a way to give of himself so that others may continue to live. Thanks to science and the commitment of doctors and health care workers we are challenged to love our neighbor in new ways.
It is for the betterment of humanity, for the love of one's fellow human beings, that organ donation is undertaken. One of the most powerful ways for individuals to demonstrate love for their neighbor is by making an informed decision to be an organ donor.”

CATHOLIC BROCHURE: If you would like to order free copies of the New York Organ Donor Network’s Catholic brochure, send an e-mail to communications@nyodn.org, or phone us at 646-291-4458.

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
The Christian Church encourages organ and tissue donation, stating that individuals were created for God's glory and for sharing of 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."
The Church of Christ, Scientist
The Church of Christ, Scientist does not have a specific position regarding organ and tissue donation. The question of organ and tissue donation is an individual decision. According to the First Church of Christ Science in Boston, Christ Scientists normally rely on spiritual means of healing instead of medical. However, members are free to choose whatever form of medical treatment they desire-including a transplant.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
Donation of organs and tissues is a selfless act that often results in great benefit to individuals with a medical condition. The decision to become a living or deceased organ and tissue donor is made by the individual while alive, or a surviving family member. The decision to receive a donated organ should be made after receiving competent medical counseling and confirmation through prayer.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
Donation of organs and tissues is a selfless act that often results in great benefit to individuals with a medical condition. The decision to become a living or deceased organ and tissue donor is made by the individual while alive, or a surviving family member. The decision to receive a donated organ should be made after receiving competent medical counseling and confirmation through prayer.

Read an official statement by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, New York City, which was obtained by the New York Organ Donor Network publication On the Beat publication for its final issue (Fall 2009/Winter 2010). It states, in part: “Latter-day Saints recognize that organ transplantation does not affect one’s resurrection, since the organ would soon have returned to the basic elements of the earth following death anyway. Whatever happens to an organ following death, the promise is that “every limb and joint shall be restored to its body, yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost.” (The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 40:23)”

Church of the Nazarene
The Church encourages members who do not object personally to support donor and recipient anatomical gifts through living wills and trusts. Further, the Church appeals for morally and ethically fair distribution of organs to those qualified to receive them (Manual, Church of the Nazarene 1997 - 2001, paragraph 904.2).

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Disciples of Christ
See Christian Church

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Episcopal
The Episcopal Church recognizes the life-giving benefits of organ, blood, and tissue donation (Resolution passed in 1982). 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."
Evangelical Covenant Church
A resolution passed at the Annual Meeting in 1982 encouraged members to "sign and carry Organ Donor Cards." The resolution also recommends, "…it become a policy with our pastors, teachers, and counselors to encourage awareness of organ donation in all our congregations."

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Greek Orthodox
See Orthodox Christian Church
Gypsies (Roma)
Gypsies are a people of diverse ethnic groups without a formalized religion. Although they have no formal resolution, their opposition is associated with their belief in the after-life. Traditional belief contends that for one year after death, the soul retraces its steps. Thus, the body must remain intact because the soul maintains its physical shape.

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Hinduism
According to the Hindu Temple Society of North and South America, Hindus are not prohibited by religious law from donating their organs. The act of donation is an individual choice.

Read an exclusive article about organ donation and Hinduism written by Uma V. Mysorekar, MD, FACOG, the President of the Hindu Temple Society of North America. In the article, which appeared in the New York Organ Donor Network publication On the Beat (Fall 2007), Dr. Mysorekar wrote, in part: “(W)e are never prohibited from any form of charity, including the donation of one’s body. The idea of compassion and charity form the two main tenets of Hinduism and therefore a Hindu should do whatever possible to eradicate the sorrow of others. … Hinduism is a way of life with a strong belief in life after death and the laws of Karma, good and bad actions.

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Independent Conservative Evangelical
Generally, Evangelicals have no opposition to organ and tissue donation. Each church is self-governing, and leaves the decision to donate up to the individual.
Islam
Muslims believe in the principle of saving human lives, and permit organ transplants as a means of achieving that noble end.

Read an exclusive article about organ donation and Islam written by Sheikh Omar S. Abu-Namous, who at the time was Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York in Manhattan. The Islamic Cultural Center was the first building erected as a mosque in New York City. In the article, which appeared in the New York Organ Donor Network publication, On The Beat , in the fall of 2003., the Imam wrote: “…Islamic juristic academies and fatwa (juristic opinion) bodies in the Muslim world, including the Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences based in Kuwait , are agreed on the permissibility and lawfulness of donating organs to patients whose survival or cure vitally depends on them.”

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Jehovah's Witness
Jehovah Witnesses believe donation is a matter of individual decision. According to the National Headquarters, the Watch Tower Society, Jehovah Witnesses are often presumed to be opposed to donation because of their belief against blood transfusion. However, this merely means that all blood must be removed from the organs and tissues before being transplanted. In addition, it would not be acceptable for an organ donor to receive blood as part of the organ recovery process.
Judaism
All four branches of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist) support and encourage organ and tissue donation.

Halachic Organ Donor Society (HOD) is an organization that educates Jews around the world about the halachic and medical issues surrounding organ donation. HOD Society’s founder and director is Robert Berman. www.hods.org. (This is an external link, and the New York Organ Donor Network is not responsible for its content.)

Read an exclusive article about organ donation and Judaism by Orthodox Rabbi Moshe Tendler , Chairman of the Biology Department of Yeshiva University in New York City and Chairman of the Bioethics Commission of the Rabbinical Council of America. [LINK TO PDF IN THIS FOLDER] In the article, Rabbi Tendler wrote favorably about organ donation, citing the imperative from Deuteronomy 30:19: "You shall choose life." The article appeared in the Summer/Fall 2002 issue of the New York Organ Donor Network publication On the Beat.

Read a Sermon by Rabbi Lisa Grushcow, Associate Rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, a Reform Congregation in Manhattan, for National Donor Sabbath in November 2006. Rabbi Grushcow is a Rhodes Scholar and the author of Writing the Wayward Wife: Rabbinic Interpretations of Sotah. Rabbi Grushcow answers this question: “What stops us from being donors?”

JEWISH BROCHURES: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform If you would like to order free copies of these brochures, send an e-mail to communications@nyodn.org, or phone us at 646-291-4458.

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Lutheran
In 1984, the Lutheran Church in America (Missouri -Synod) 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.

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Mennonite
Mennonites have no formal position on organ and tissue donation, but are not opposed to it. They leave the decision to the individual or his/her family.
Moravian
The Moravian Church does not have an official policy addressing organ and tissue donation or transplantation. Robert E. Sawyer, President, Provincial Elders Conference, Moravian Church of America, Southern Province stated, "There is nothing in our doctrine or policy that would prevent a Moravian pastor from assisting a family in making a decision to donate an organ." It is, therefore, a matter of individual choice.
Mormon
See Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, The

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Orthodox Christian Church
Traditionally, the Orthodox Church does not require the faithful to donate their organs. Nevertheless, organ donation may be considered an act of love and is encouraged. The decision to become a living organ donor should be made in consultation with medical professionals and one’s spiritual father. However, organ donation is acceptable at the time of death if the deceased willed such action, or if surviving relatives permit. In all cases, respect for the donor’s body should be maintained.

Read an exclusive article on organ donation and the Orthodox Christian Church by the Rev. Stanley H. Harakas, a priest of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and Archbishop Iakovos Professor of Orthodox Theology Emeritus in the field of Orthodox Christian Ethics at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Mass. In the article, which appeared in the final issue of the New York Organ Donor Network publication On the Beat (Fall 2009/Winter 2010), Rev. Harakas wrote: While acknowledging the idea that we should maintain the integrity of our bodies, the call for love for those who need an organ, when appropriate and fitting, is the higher value, one might say.” Now retired, the Rev. Harakas resides in Florida.

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Pentecostal
Pentecostals leave the decision to become an organ donor up to the individual.
Presbyterian
Presbyterians encourage and support organ donation. It is, therefore, a matter of individual choice.
Protestantism
The Protestant denomination is very diverse. Therefore, a general statement on their attitude towards organ and tissue donation cannot be made. However, the Protestant faith respects an individual’s right to make a decision regarding his or her own body.

Read an exclusive article about organ donation and Protestantism by the Reverend Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., who at the time was Senior Minister at The Riverside Church of New York City. In the Winter/Spring 2002 issue of On the Beat, a publication of the New York Organ Donor Network, Rev. Forbes wrote that, “…becoming a donor takes on sacramental meaning. Organ and tissue donation is considered to be the ultimate humanitarian act of benevolence.”

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Quakers (Religious Society of Friends)
The Quakers have no official position on organ and tissue donation, and believe it is a matter of individual decision.

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Religious Society of Friends
See Quakers (Religious Society of Friends)
Roma
See Gypsies

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Salvation Army
The Salvation Army finds organ donation and transplantation acceptable.
Seventh-Day Adventist
Organ donation and transplantation are strongly encouraged. Seventh-Day Adventists have many transplant hospitals, including Loma Linda in California, which specializes in pediatric heart transplantation.
Shinto
In Shinto, the dead body is considered impure and dangerous, and thus quite powerful. “In folk belief context, injuring a dead body is a serious crime…” according to E. Namihira in his article, “Shinto Concept Concerning the Dead Human Body.” To this day, it is difficult to obtain consent from bereaved families for organ donation or dissection for medical research or pathological anatomy. Families are concerned not to injure the itai-the relationship between the deceased and bereaved.
Society of Friends
See Quakers

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Unitarian Universalist
Reverend Jay Litner, Director of the Washington office of the United Church of Christ, 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.”
United Methodist
The United Methodist Church issued a policy statement in 1984 regarding organ and tissue donation. In it, they stated, “The United Methodist Church recognizes the life-giving benefits of 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 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 that, “Pastoral-Care persons should be willing to explore these options as a normal part of conversation with patients and their families.”

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Wesleyan Church
The Wesleyan Church supports donation as a way of helping others. They believe that God’s “ability to resurrect us is not dependent on whether or not all our parts were connected at death. “ The church also supports research, and in 1989 noted in a task force on public morals and social concerns that, “one of the ways that a Christian can do good is to request that their body be donated to a medical school for use in teaching.”

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