The Orthodox Pages






















Question 158

Does the church allow organ donations?


Answer to Question 158


We had a discussion on this subject back in May, but as there are now 2,000 more members in the group, it would be good to have a refresher, not only for the new members but also for those who missed it the first time round.  When it comes to organ donations the church has not taken any official stand on this subject, but has certain reservations, not because she is against it or that there is some religious reason that forbids it. It's purely a matter of what constitutes death. Science claims that when there is no indication of brain activity then the person is clinically dead. The church’s argument is that if the heart is still beating then the person in actually still alive. So until science can prove the person is dead, the Church cannot condone the removal of organs.  From a religious point of view we can argue “what gives doctors the right to say someone is beyond help and nothing more can be done for him, so give us your permission to remove the organs? It is not allowing for God’s intervention and there have been many occasions when the person was pronounced clinically dead and miraculously had a complete recovery. But once the organs are removed then the person is 100% dead and there is no way of knowing if he would have lived. The problem for the medical profession is that if the person is already dead the organs cannot be removed because they would be of no use as they have to be removed while the person is still alive. The church is not against organ donation and in fact would give her blessing to such a wonderful and unselfish offering if and when the medical profession can prove that clinically dead means 100% dead.  But the church’s reservations does not apply to every occasion of organ donation or blood transfusions. If someone wishes to donate a kidney this will not kill him because he can still live a normal life with just one kidney. Certain other organs can also be removed without killing the person. In such cases the Church has no problem with people donating certain organs and would commend such actions and give her blessing.