Some people may worry that organ donation breaches tenets of their religion. A cursory reading of some religious texts may lead to this conclusion, but the reality is that, although some groups discourage organ donation, major world religions permit and in fact encourage the practice.
Laws in Judaism and Islam, for instance, prohibit desecration of the human body. But both religions note that prohibition is trumped when it comes to saving a life. In fact, Judaism considers post-mortem organ donation in order to preserve a life to be a "mitzvah" – a worthy deed.
The Catholic Church and its leaders have been clear in their support of organ donation. The Catechism says that "Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity"; Pope Benedict XVI called the act of organ donation "a genuine testament of charity," and Pope Francis has said it is "a testimony of love for our neighbor." Such a view dates back to Jesus himself, who championed healing the sick as one of his cardinal beliefs and practices.
Similar support for organ donation is found in many other faiths, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. The Hindu Temple Society of North America has stated that Hindus are not prohibited from donating organs and that choosing to do so is entirely up to the individual.
Reverend Gyomay Masao, president and founder of The Buddhist Temple of Chicago, says, "We honor those people who donate their bodies and organs to the advancement of medical science and to saving lives."
Even groups such as the Christian Scientists and the Jehovah's Witnesses, often thought to be sternly against organ donation, leave the decision to the individual, although the Jehovah's Witnesses require the removal of all blood from the organ before transplantation.
Seventh-Day Adventists, known for a strong focus on health and clean living, strongly encourage organ donation and run hospitals specializing in it.
Preventing the death or suffering of others is held in the highest regard by all faiths. Ultimately, the choice to do so, according to the various religions, is yours.
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