Choosing Organ Donation
Question: Are Catholics allowed to donate their organs?
Answer: Yes, Catholics are allowed to donate their organs. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church praises this practice when it notes that, “Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity” (no. 2296).
The Church has a series of guidelines for health care providers called The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services. This document helps us see organ donation as an act of charity, but it also reminds us that we have to be sure that donations of organs by living donors do not “sacrifice or seriously impair any essential bodily function and the anticipated benefit to the recipient is proportionate to the harm to the donor” (no. 30); trained medical professionals can help to make this assessment. In the case of organ donation at the end of life, we must be sure of the intentions of the donor or of their proxy are always respected, and that the dignity of the human body is always respected.
In the end, we can look to Pope Saint John Paul II and his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, where he noted that organ donation is a beautiful act of expressing the culture of life, when “performed in an ethically acceptable manner, with a view to offering a chance of health or even of life itself to the sick who sometimes have no other hope” (no. 86).