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Organ Transplants And Donations

by Wayne A. Mineer

Because the transplanting of body parts raises some concerns regarding ethics and moral issues, the Church has issued the following statement: "Whether an individual chooses to will his own bodily organs or authorizes the transplant of organs from a deceased family member is a decision for the individual or the deceased member's family. The decision to receive a donated organ should be made with competent medical counsel and confirmation through prayer" (Church Handbook of Instructions, 11-6).

The transplanting of certain organs is now being done with increasing success. For example, transplantation of the cornea has been done for many years, and now a better than 90 percent chance of vision restoration is expected in cases of blindness due to corneal disease. As successful replacements increasingly occur, more people become aware of the various diseases and disorders that can be treated and cured by transplantation, and more people want to become recipients. According to the American Council on Transplantation, more than 50,000 people benefited from organ transplants in 1989. And according to the Intermountain Transplant Program, "more than 100,000 could benefit if enough organs and tissue were available."

Organs and tissue that can now be transplanted include the cornea, kidney, pancreas, heart, liver, skin, bone, veins, tendons, lung, bone marrow, and blood. Heart and liver donations are immediate matters of life and death. Donated kidneys replace thrice-weekly dialysis treatments. A donated pancreas may "cure" someone's diabetes. Donated eyes provide not only corneas for sight-restoring corneal transplants but also vital eye tissue for other surgical procedures and for research into blinding eye disorders.

According to organizations handling organs for transplantation, only those who meet strict criteria are considered for donors. These criteria include careful testing for infectious diseases, including AIDS. Because of these procedures and advances in transplant techniques, donors and recipients do not face the risks faced a few years ago.

In some instances, as where a kidney is needed, a close relative can serve as a donor. (A healthy person can continue a normal life with one kidney.) In the case of some organs, such as the cornea of the eye, the donated organ usually comes from one who signs a statement indicating a desire to donate organs upon death. In the event of an accident or untimely death, the donor's eyes may then be used with the consent of the family.

(See Daily Living home page; Attitudes Toward Health, Medicine, and Fitness home page)

Bibliography

General Handbook of Instructions, 11-6. Salt Lake City, 1989.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, Organ Donations and Transplants

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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