Religious doctrines on blood transfusion & organ donation

What are the religious beliefs and doctrines on blood transfusion and organ donation?

Religion is the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

It also means faith, belief, divinity,  worship, creed, teaching, doctrine, and theology.

Wikipedia defined religion as a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements.

A doctrine is a belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a Church, Mosque, political party, or other group.

Other words that can be used in place of doctrine are creed, credo, dogma,  belief,  set of beliefs, conviction,  teaching, tenet, maxim, article if faith,  code of belief, canon,  principle,  notion,  idea, ideology,  precept,  theory,  thesis, and so on.

There is no universally agreed meaning or definition for religion.

Its true meaning is controversial and this article is not ready to bask in that controversy.

Blood transfusion and organ donation or transplant has been a subject of heated debate since the inception of humans.

Many of the arguments for and against these medical interventions often arising from religious doctrines and dogmas.

The religious views or doctrines on organ transplant and blood transfusion are quite complicated.

Catholic Church

Headed by the Pope, the Catholic Church is the oldest and most populous church in the world  with over 1.3 billion members worldwide.

Though the Roman Catholic Church kicked against blood transfusion and organ donation in the medieval times, the Christian body now sees transfusions and donations as an act of charity guaranteed to reduce the pain of others.

In 2014, Pope Francis described the act of organ donation as a “testimony of love for our neighbour.” However, he does not encourage organ donation for commercial purposes.

Speaking on his behalf, Rome’s mayor, Ignazio Marino said, “The pope authorized me to say that in his view organ donation through generosity must be encouraged, but the commercial use of organs is immoral.

“We need to explain that donating organs is a gesture of love. Each of us, for example, has two kidneys, and giving one of them to a relative or a person we love is a beautiful gesture. Entering into the spiral of trade and sales is a crime.”

Bishop Alejandro Goic, the then president of the Catholic Bishops of Chile is 2008 said: “The Catholic Church accepts transfusions. The Sacred Scriptures are not opposed to this kind of therapy that, on the other hand, was unknown in the times of Jesus.  Jesus Christ teaches us that giving one’s life for others is the greatest show of love”.

Islam

According to Wikipedia, islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God (Arabic: Allah), and that Muhammad (PBOH)  is the messenger of God. It is the world’s second-largest religion with over 1.8 billion followers or 24% of the world’s population, most commonly known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 50 countries.

The Islamic stance on blood transfusion in straight forward are not complicated.  Islam believes in blood transfusion to save lives as long as it will cause no harm to the donor.  Contrary to the assumption out there,  Islam is a religion freely accepts blood donation from non-muslims.

According to an Islamic ruling,  “if giving blood to a patient is necessary for his/her survival, or to relieve his/her complaint, then, according to Islam, it becomes mandatory, as a case of implementing a basic Islamic principle which makes it imperative to preserve human life.”

On organ donation, though not all, the majority of Islamic religious leaders accept organ donation during life (provided it does not harm the donor) and after death in order to save life. Most religious leaders do not accept brain death as a criterion and consider cessation of all signs of life including heart beat as a precondition for declaring death.

The controversy on posthumous organ donation still rages on among the Ayatollahs.

Pentecostal, Anglican, Lutharian, Seventh-Day Adventist, Baptist, Methodist, & Presbyterian

These churches are called the Protestants.

According to Wikipedia, Protestantism is the second largest form of Christianity with collectively between 800 million and more than 900 million adherents worldwide or nearly 40% of all Christians.

It originated with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church.

A Protestant member or follower of any of the Western Christian Churches that are separate from the Roman Catholic Church in accordance with the principles of the Reformation, including the Baptist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran Churches.

Protestant and Pentecostal churches fully accept blood transfusion or donation and have no issues with non-commercialised organ donation.

They encourage blood transfusion are organ donation for love and charity.

According to BBC, “all mainstream Protestant denominations support organ donation, whether they see it as an individual choice motivated by compassion, or encourage it as an act of charity.”

Jehovah Witness

 It is common knowledge that this religious group does not believe in donating blood or accepting blood transfusions. For them, this is not a medical issue but a religious one. They believe that avoiding anything that involves blood is both an act of obedience and respect for God.

This belief is based on the following verses; Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:10; Deuteronomy 12:23; Acts 15:28, 29 and Leviticus 17:14.

Genesis 9:4: “But flesh (meat) with…blood…ye shall not eat”

Leviticus 17:12–14: “…No soul of you shall eat blood…whosoever eateth it shall be cut off”

Acts 15:29: “That ye abstain…from blood…”

In an emergency, they opt for doctors to use blood-conservation techniques as opposed to blood transfusions.

This belief is so important that anyone that knowingly receives a blood transfusion is seen as a sinner who longer has eternal life. This tainted person is also shunned by other Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Interestingly, the group is okay with organ donations as long as it involves the cornea, kidney, other tissues and bones. For Jehovah’s Witnesses, the fact that the Bible does not comments directly transplants gives room for individuals to decide.

However, contrary to most beliefs,  Jehovah’s Witnesses may not accept blood but some accept blood products. 

Koch, an author for the online Medical Journal called Medscape, discussed the careplan for Jehovah witnesses that are anemic.

She explained that there is a belief that “if you are a Jehovah’s Witness, you don’t take any blood products,” but this isn’t necessarily true and varies from person to person, depending on religious conviction.

Some patients, for example, will accept certain clotting factors, she notes.

She enumerated in detail procedures and products permitted by Witnesses:

  • Transfusions of autologous blood. Transfusion with own blood.
  • Intraoperative blood salvage (autologous) or cell-saver scavenging.
  • Heart-lung machine, including extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and left ventricular assist device support.
  • Dialysis, where blood is cleaned and returned in continuity.
  • Plasmapheresis, where blood is withdrawn, plasma removed and replaced with nonblood solution, and then returned to patient.
  • Platelet gel.
  • Fractions from red blood cells: hemoglobin.
  • Fractions from white blood cells: interferon and interleukins.
  • Fractions from platelets: platelet factor 4.
  • Fractions from blood plasma: albumin, globulins, cryosupernatant, clotting factors (VIII and IX, and sometimes VII, IX and XIII).
  • Erythropoietin.
  • Homologous blood transfusion is accepted by a few Witnesses.

Buddhism

Buddhism is the world’s fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists.

 Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practiceslargely based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha and resulting interpreted philosophies.

According to NHS,  there are no religious objections to blood transfusions, but attitudes amongst Buddhists to organ transplants vary. Many will have no religious objections, since helping others is fundamental to Buddhist belief — and all consider organ donation during life an act of compassion.

However, some Buddhists may decline to offer organ donation after death because they believe the mind may stay in the body for some time after the heart has stopped.

Hiduism

Hinduism is an Indian religion and dharma, or way of life, widely practised in the Indian subcontinentand parts of Southeast Asia.

Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, and some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, “the eternal tradition”, or the “eternal way”, beyond human history.

Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder.

Hinduism doctrine on blood transfusion and organ donation is quite knotty and not clear-cut.

A publication on Hinduism Hinduism and Medicine posited that: “organ donation (either giving or accepting) is not accepted in principle, as it does not allow for complete release of the soul of the donor.

“Many may opt for transplants if they are more modern in thinking. Others may just choose to die peacefully.

Blood transfusions are a little more acceptable, but not desirable.”

“Transfusions and organ donations do not harm the reciever and are not subject to the same laws on non-violence, since the donors chose to give their bodies of their own free will (unlike animals).”

“However, some believe that having the tissue of another person mingles the souls of the donor with the recipient. Not a common belief.”

Shintoism

This is a Japanese religion that sees a dead body as a powerful thing, thus taking an organ from it is considered a serious crime. So, any form of donation or transplantation is forbidden.

READ ALSO: Harmful traditional practices.  

  • I am a practicing medical doctor, a philosopher, critical thinker, a globalist, a patriot, SEO expert and a patient blogger.

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