The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 8, 2000 Issue
Editorial

Gift of life

Pope John Paul says giving organs for transplants furthers the culture of life


By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Pope John Paul's support last week for organ transplants was welcome news. The pope told more than 4,000 transplant experts from some 60 countries attending an international conference in Rome that organ transplants are a "great step forward in science's service of man."

He condemned commercialization or discrimination in human organ distribution, stressed the need for informed donor consent and cautiously endorsed brain death as an indicator of the death of a potential organ donor. He also encouraged related research into new therapies, including the use of artificial or animal organs.

Morally, he said, "an obvious principle of justice requires that the criteria for assigning donated organs should in no way be 'discriminatory' - that is, based on age, sex, race, religion, social standing, etc. - or 'utilitarian' - that is, based on work capacity, social usefulness, etc."

Those who donate their organs help to build up "a genuine culture of life," the pope said in noting a lack of organs for donation.

"Here lies precisely the nobility of the gesture, a gesture which is a genuine act of love. It is not just a matter of giving away something which belongs to us, but of giving something of ourselves," he said.

"There is a need to instill in people's hearts, especially in the hearts of the young generation, a genuine and deep appreciation of the need for brotherly love, a love that can find expression in the decision to become an organ donor," the pope said.

There should have been no doubt that the pope would endorse organ donations. As Catholics, we believe that Jesus gave his own life so that we might live. And, throughout his life, he told us to go and do likewise.

It's neither possible nor necessary for any of us to give ourselves in the same redemptive manner that Jesus did for the sake of all humanity. But, by signing and carrying donor cards and making our wishes known to family members and our physicians, we can give of ourselves in a way that will improve and even prolong the lives of one or more other people.

In a sense, it seems almost too easy: We don't need to part with these organs until death, when we no longer need them.

In addition to organs, there is a pressing need for donations of blood and bone marrow.

One of the realities of modern medicine is that for these miracles to happen we must depend on the generosity of each other, rather than on selfish individualism. Give generously of your blood and organs.



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