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What Does My Religion Say about Donation?

While there are some variations in specifics, the major religions of the world generally support bone marrow donation, or take the position that it is a matter for individual decision.  We have been unable to find specific research data on bone marrow donation.  However several studies have been done into the views of religions on organ and tissue donation and transplants.

All major religions support organ and tissue donation as a humanitarian gift, giving life.  Organ and tissue donation represents one of the highest forms of loving, giving and caring.  Many denominations have passed resolutions encouraging their members, as part of their ministry, to become organ and tissue donors.

Below is a listing of religions and their viewpoints on donation.  (We would be happy to hear from anyone who is able to provide additional information to what is published below).

African Methodist Episcopal


Assembly of God





Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Christian Science


Evangelical Covenant Church

Greek Orthodox


Independent Conservative Evangelical


Jehovah's Witnesses





Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)




Seventh-Day Adventist



Society of Friends (Quakers)

Unitarian Universalist

United Church of Christ

United Methodist

Wesleyan Church



AME & AME ZION (African Methodist Episcopal)
Organ and tissue donation is viewed as an act of neighbourly love and charity by these denominations. They encourage all members to support donation as a way of helping others.


Approved if there is a definite indication that the health of the recipient would improve, but reluctant if the outcome is questionable.  The Amish will consent to donation if they believe it is for the well being of the transplant recipient. John Hosteler, world-renowned authority on Amish religion, states in his book, Amish Society, “The Amish believe that since God created the human body, it is God who heals. However, nothing in the Amish understanding of the Bible forbids them from using modern medical services, including surgery, hospitalization, dental work, anesthesia, blood transfusions and immunizations.”

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The Church has no official policy in regards to organ and tissue donation. The decision to donate is left up to the individual. Donation is highly supported by the denomination.

Organ and tissue donation is supported as an act of charity. The Baptist Church leaves the decision up to the individual. The largest Protestant denomination in the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention, adopted a resolution in 1988 encouraging physicians to request organ donation in appropriate circumstances and to “encourage voluntarism regarding organ donation 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.

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Bahaism believes that transplants are acceptable if prescribed by medical authorities, and are permitted to donate their bodies for research and for restorative purposes.

While no official position has been taken by the Brethren denominations, according to Pastor Mike Smith, there is a consensus among the National Fellowship of Grace Brethren that organ and tissue donation and transplantation is a charitable act so long as it does not impede the life or hasten the death of the donor or does not come from an unborn child.

The Church of the Brethren’s Annual Conference in 1993 wrote a resolution on organ and tissue donation in support and encouragement of donation. They wrote that, "We have the opportunity to help others out of love for Christ, through the donation of organs and tissues."

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Helping others is central to Buddhism along with the belief that charity forms an integral part of a spiritual way of life. Human life, like everything else, is impermanent. It may be considered an act of compassion to enable another person to continue to live. Sogyal Rinpoche, in The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying, states that “organ donation is an extremely positive action. As long as it is truly the wish of the dying person, it will not harm in any way the consciousness that is leaving the body. On the contrary, this final act of generosity accumulates good karma.” The importance of letting your loved ones know your wishes is stressed.

Catholics view organ and tissue donation as an act of charity and love. Transplants are morally and ethically acceptable to the Vatican. Pope John Paul II stated, “The Catholic Church would promote the fact that there is a need for organ donors, and Christians should accept this as a challenge to their generosity and fraternal love, so long as ethical principles are followed.”

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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 enrol as organ donors and prayerfully support those who have received an organ transplant."

The Church of Christ Scientist does not have a specific position regarding organ donation. According to the First Church of Christ Scientist in Boston, Christian Scientists normally rely on spiritual instead of medical means of healing. They are free, however, to choose whatever form of medical treatment they desire - including a transplant. The question of organ and tissue donation is an individual decision.

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The Episcopal Church passed a resolution in 1982 that 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."

A resolution passed at the Annual Meeting in 1982 encouraged the members to "sign and carry Organ Donor Cards." The resolution also recommended "that it become a policy with our pastors, teachers, and counselors to encourage awareness of organ donation in all our congregations."

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The Greek Orthodox Church supports donation, as long as the organs and tissue are to better human life, either through transplantation or research leading to the improvements in the treatment and prevention of disease.

According to Reverend 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 questions 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."

Donation of organs is an individual decision.

According to the Hindu Temple Society of North America, Hindus are not prohibited by religious law from donating their organs. This act is an individual's decision. H. L. Trivedi, in Transplantation Proceedings, stated that, "Hindu mythology has stories in which the parts of the human body are used for the benefit of other humans and society. There is nothing in the Hindu religion indicating that parts of humans, dead or alive, cannot be used to alleviate the suffering of other humans."

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Generally, Evangelicals have no opposition to organ and tissue donation. Each church is autonomous and leaves the decision to donate up to the individual.

The religion of Islam strongly believes in the principle of saving human lives. The Noble Qur’an references this principle in several chapters (see below).

“…and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people” (ch.5, v. 32).

“…but do good; for Allah loveth those who do good” (ch.2, v. 195).

“Whatever of good ye give benefits your own souls, and ye shall only do so seeking the "Face" of Allah. Whatever good ye give, shall be rendered back to you, and ye shall not Be dealt with unjustly” (ch.2, v. 272).

A. Sachedina in his Transplantation Proceedings article (1990), “the majority of the Muslim scholars belonging to various schools of Islamic law have invoked the principle of the priority of saving human life, and have permitted the organ transplant as a necessity to procure that noble end.”

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According to their national headquarters, the Watchtower Society, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe donation is a matter of individual decision. Jehovah’s Witnesses are often assumed 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 tissue before being transplanted. In addition, it would not be acceptable for an organ donor to receive blood as part of the organ recovery process.

All four branches of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist) support and encourage donation. According to Orthodox Rabbi Moses 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, "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 and Rabbi Richard Address, Director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations Bio-Ethics Committee and Committee on Older Adults, states that "Judaic Responsa materials provide a positive approach and by and large the North American Reform Jewish community approves of transplantation."

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Lutherans passed a resolution in 1984 stating that donation contributes to the well-being of humanity and can be “an expression of sacrificial love for a neighbour in need.” They call on members “to consider donating…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 believe the decision to donate is up to the individual and/or his or her family.

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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 believes the decision to donate is an individual one made in conjunction with family, medical personnel and prayer. Jerry Cahill, Director of Public Affairs for the Mormon Church, says, “Mormons must individually weigh the advantages and disadvantages of transplantation and choose the one that will bring them peace and comfort. The Church does not interpose any objection to an individual decision in favour of organ and tissue donation.”

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Pentecostals believe that the decision to donate should be left up to the individual.

Presbyterians encourage and support donation. They respect a person’s right to make decisions regarding their own body.

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Protestants encourage and endorse organ donation. The Protestant faiths respect an individual's conscience and a person's right to make decisions regarding his or her own body. Reverend James W. Rassbach, Lutheran Board of Communication Services, Missouri-Synod, says "We accept and believe that our Lord Jesus Christ came to give life and give it in abundance. Organ donations enable more abundant life, alleviate pain and suffering and are an expression of love in times of tragedy."

Donation and transplantation are strongly encouraged by Seventh-day Adventists. They have many transplant hospitals, including Loma Linda in California. Loma Linda specializes in pediatric heart transplantation.

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In Shinto, the dead body is considered to be impure and dangerous, and thus quite powerful. "In folk belief context, injuring as dead body is a serious crime. . .", according to E Narnihira 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 education or pathological anatomy . . . the Japanese regard them all in the sense of injuring a dead body." Families are concerned that they not injure the itai - - the relationship between the dead person and the bereaved people.

The Sikh religion stresses the importance of performing noble deeds, and saving a life is considered one of the greatest forms of noble deeds. Therefore organ donation is deemed acceptable to the Sikh religion.

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Organ and tissue donation is believed to be an individual decision. The Society of Friends does not have an official position on donation.

Organ and tissue donation is widely supported by Unitarian Universalists. They view it as an act of love and selfless giving.

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The United Church of Christ supports and encourages donation.

Reverend Jay Lintner, Director, Washington Office of the United Church of Christ Office for Church in Society, states, "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. 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 the following policy statement regarding organ and tissue donation:

We believe that organ transplantation and organ donation are acts of charity, agape love, and self-sacrifice. We recognize the life-giving benefits of organ and other tissue donation and encourage all people of faith to become organ and tissue donors as a part of their love and ministry to others in need. We urge that it be done in an environment of respect for deceased and living donors and for the benefit of the recipients, and following protocols that carefully prevent abuse to donors and their families.

The United Methodist Church participates in the observation of National Donor Sabbath to help increase awareness of the critical need for organs and tissues and the miracle of transplantation. This annual interfaith celebration of life stresses the importance of donation. Religious leaders who participate in discussions of donation with their congregants can affirm that choosing to be an organ and tissue donor offers the opportunity to share the greatest blessing of all -- the gift of life.

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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." They also support 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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Sources: Organ & Tissue Donation: A Reference Guide for Clergy, (SEOPF & UNOS); New York Regional Transplant Program, Inc.; American Council on Transplantation; National Kidney Foundation; the New Jersey Organ and Tissue Sharing Network; the Pennsylvania Medical Medical Society.



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