Organ donation: Should you or shouldn't you?

While the ministry takes a week off, think about this question and post your thoughts: is organ donation ethical, and under what circumstances?

Jennifer Lahl, founder and president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, wrote a piece called “Presumptuous Consent.” In other words, should the medical community assume that all persons are willing organ donators unless they opt out? This presumes that organ donation should be normative. The other option is to opt in, which assumes that people are not organ donators unless they explicitly consent.

Consider: Is the human body a commodity? A conglomeration of parts to be used and reused? Or, is the human body sacred, thus meaning that organ donation implies a gift?

What are your thoughts on organ donation and how to deal with shortages of available organs? We should be careful to approach the subject not primarily on the basis of “shortages,” but rather focus first on the intrinsic dignity of life and the place of the human body. If we are holistic beings, meaning our physical bodies do indeed matter, how can the medical community honor human dignity while creating a culture of ethical organ donation?

Looking forward to your comments and the conversation to unfold!


Comments:

Freecycling organs
Lee,

Yeah, we had an old organ that we had trouble getting rid of. Hard to think about just taking it to the dump. In the end we put it on freecycle and had a taker. Hope they made good use of it.

As for selling organs, if there's a shortage then economics provides price as a control for that. Mark J Perry talks about this. It certainly is a motivator. But, as you wrote, the gov't will take over health care and impose all sorts of rules on us, and it will be alright.
As an interesting note, Knights of Malta used to will their bodies to the order to be dissected for medical training and research.
Note to The Provocateur in Portland, Organ
.
Ah yes, I see that all the candles of your brilliance were lit, sir for that last post.

But if you think just because from time to time (?) I enjoy being a ham and cutting up that I’m going to allow remarks of that sort to pull me into another YOD-baiting round of punditry….

(BTW, that’s where apples grow --- punditry. Heh). Oops.

I suppose I’d better pipe down and start back-pedaling before Gina sees where this is headed, starts to grinder teeth, and then decides to pull out all the stops and call up the Orkin pest control experts to weed out the resident dimwit; that is, before she tries to cull, aye, a pea-brain (me) from this otherwise stimulating dialogue on….on….hey, what was it everyone was discussing?

Anyway, like I was saying, clearly I’ve danced around imminent danger long enough. It’s high time for me to get my bachside going. If I don’t I’m almost certain to die a-pacin’ the floor in search of a fugue good excuses why I oughtn’t be banned from the blog forever.

And if that happened, my sorrow would be inconsolable.
Tried to sell our organ
...because it wouldn't be worth it to repair. Tried to donate it to a church, but they all use electronic keyboards. Now we've gotta dispose of it, but it's really heavy, what with the pedals and all,...

Oh, wait. (Rolley mode OFF - for now)

Christopher, I assume you mean "selling organs for profit, as a business, instead of as part of a non-profit charity like hospitals used to be". Well, not to worry; soon the government will run our healthcare, so no profit will be needed - right? Your organs will effectively be the property of the state. Problem solved. :-/
I have to agree w/ Jason
I see some good references to burial tradition in the Bible, but not so much the imperative.

Traditions are fine, and as Jason says the "yuk" factor may be a legit warning. Or it may simply be culture, or perhaps superstition.

I remember as a kid reading a pamphlet discussing why Christians shouldn't choose cremation. However it was frustrating in that it just kept repeating the question and the statement that burials were traditional. It offered no evidence to support the proposition.

One topic that I don't see here is a discussion on selling organs.
Scary---if the hospital needs YOUR type of organ &
Call me a SKEPTIC, but persons grabbing organs without the need for a signed release from the patient-- means that some administrators (educated carefully to value the young over the old - or even the middle aged), to valuethe "fit" over the disabled, to view persons as "useful" or "not useful", to talk of persons like they are "vegetables" if they are not fully functioning....may well HASTEN to grab organs from the borderline patient!

Am thinking of an OLD Law & Order TV episode (probably pre Terri Schiavo's starvation death). They successfully proved that a woman - not quite brain dead - was given MORPHINE because it was quite likely she would be feeling and knowing pain - as her organs were harvested.
And another thing...!
Joseph insisted that his remains be taken from Egypt and buried in the Holy Land. (See Genesis 50:25-26) Those remains were carried out of Egypt during the Exodus (Exodus 13:19) and were in fact buried as requested, at Shechem (Joshua 24:32).

If I've done the math correctly, and if indeed Joseph was buried at roughly the same time as Joshua was (though that's doubtful), it's roughly equivalent to us re-interring Martin Luther after caring for his remains all this time. (For the smallest interval that I calculate, Jason, it's equivalent to reburying Cardinal Richelieu.)

Imagine keeping a commitment that Martin Luther requested, and keeping it in the current day. That should be amazing.

It should also be concrete evidence that to the Israelites, burial was some kind of pretty big deal, don'cha know (as Minnesota Lutherans would say).

So Amanda's right (we can safely conclude, albeit to no one's surprise, naturally, that she's right); we shouldn't just go forgetting about burial and rush to donating our bodies to science, to transplanters, or both, without at least due consideration of the attitude expressed in Scripture. Thanks, Jason old chum, for the prompting to do a quick Bible study on this.
An eye for an eye, ay-yi-yi!
"Crichton" - good grief, I wonder where my brain was this morning... ;-)

Jason, there is no direct "Thou shalt not" for organ transplants. However, Jewish people at least as far back as Abraham's Sarah were buried - typically in caves - and several individual Scriptures describe being unburied as a disgrace. This may have to do with Genesis 3:19 where Adam is told he will return to the dust from whence he came. It may prefigure the bodily resurrection of Christ, which could in fact be linked to Genesis 3:19. Or, it could simply be one of those things that arose to clearly distinguish the Jews from the other less caring and certainly less sanitary cultures around them.

It's certainly true that Christian missionaries have always introduced the concepts of burials and cemeteries as a part of the package. (Jason, in my earlier post I was angling for a characteristically authoritative treatise from you on the practice of mummification, and possibly also the practices of early Scandinavians including funeral pyres and, IIRC, burial in boats. If you have time, 'twould be much appreciated, but if not, I'll only be mildly disappointed, old chap.)

Hmmm - why did Abraham drive away the vultures, in Genesis 15:11? Those were *animal* carcasses, after all. Hmmm....

Rolley's right, of course; one good YOD thump could send any of us flying across the Atlantic. Good thing it's locked up. Heh - I wonder if she threw it, would it return to her hand like Mjollnir? Better stop right there lest I find out.

One last puzzle, Jason et. al.: Why in 1 Cor. 13:3 would Paul speak of surrendering his body *to the flames*? And would he today say "donate all my organs, and will the remainder of my corpse to a medical school, but have not love, I am nothing"?
Do we have evidence of said sacredness other then "It Feels Yucky"? The Bible does not in fact mention it. Now there is the difficulty that someone who doesn't take dead bodies seriously might be less inclined to give regard to living ones.

On the other hand, "It Feels Yucky" is not necessarily a feeling to be dismissed out of hand. To some degree it may be interpreted as a natural warning that something is not proper. Feelings have a purpose after all.

All of which are more questions and no more answers.
I’d give my right arm 4 the Cubs to win the Series
.
-- left arm to win the Playoffs

-- pinky to win two games in a row

I would agree that the body is not the *essence* of the person, but to say it is not an enduring and requisite part of the person would seem an overstatement. I’m thinking here of the resurrection. Resurrection is not merely the bestowal of a new body, it is the transformation and glorification of the old --- hence the wounds in Christ’s resurrected body.

Our present bodies are defective, but they are still holy to the Lord, like the temple/tabernacle furniture and appurtenances in the OT. Therefore, any disrespect (as in mutilation/desecraton) of the body – dead or alive – is, to my mind, disrespect for the person and should be prohibited by law and abhorred by decent sensibilities as indeed, historically, it has.

On the other hand, giving life/health to another by means of a voluntary organ donation seems to me the logical extension of a life lived sacrificially to help others, and as LeeQuod noted, does not vitiate or annul bodily resurrection, the body being a nonessential part of the person.

On this question I think bottom line the operative word is “voluntary”, for that respects conscience; and as Romans 14 expounds so thoroughly, conscience, not utilitarianism or pragmatism, is to be the final arbiter on matters of honest moral disagreement.

P.S. I agree with those cautious souls here who believe that somehow, mystically, even in her absence, Gina’s YOD’ll lay he who transgresses in an early grave, minus a body part or two.

Talk about sacrifice. See you in the Alps, guys.
Anarchy
I'm just afraid with no YOD we'll get bogged down in the differences between Presumption and Assumption.

Personally, I'd hope for an opt-in policy. I think that's part squeamishness, part libertarianism on my part. In Canada, we can "choose categories" for our opt-in. e.g. medical research, organ replacement, etc. So, if one doesn't like the idea of their kidney walking around out there, they might be more comfortable helping train future doctors... but, that's still up for personal decision.

Maybe in the future, taxation will take the form of us having to give an arm and a leg (literally).
Ah, the innocence of youth
"conversation"??!? Amanda, the YOD is clearly right there locked in its "In case of emergency break glass" case, so beginning this week with such a controversial topic in the absence of a moderator is more likely to result in more broken lampshades dusted in weasel fur. (Gina was no doubt looking forward to the time away, and probably had a lot of things to do, so I can fully understand why she didn't take time to play into my "PFM offices as a metaphor for this The Point blog, and office furniture as a metaphor for Brother In Christ relationships" idea.) Hopefully we Pointificators can allow our phileo for each other to show through vigorous debate. If not, Rolley and I will be replacing lots of walls. (Waltzing while spackling is actually rather fun.)

To the topic, though: when I was a child many moons ago, only a few organs could be used and only in relatively dire situations where the recipient had no other hope. That made donation a charitable act.

Now, in a plot worthy of a Michael Chricton novel (if there isn't one specifically on this already), technology has once again outstripped morality, and greed is the subtext. The very use of the word "harvesting" is a strong indicator. So a portion of this topic concerns medical ethics.

Another portion of the topic is the sacredness of the human body, particularly the handling of corpses. Obviously different cultures have had different opinions on this over time, including going so far as to mummify the remains to completely preserve them on the one hand, and simply discarding them on the other. The primary issue is that we often think of the person's body as the person, even though after death this is not the case.

So the most important question is whether or not sacredness of the body applies after death of the person, and if it does, then should organ donation be banned altogether as an act of sacrilege? If sacredness does not apply, then organ donation done under the auspices of an ethical medical community would be a final act of charity.




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