Gift of life
Pope John Paul says giving organs for transplants furthers the culture of life
By Tony Staley
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
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.