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God Squad: Dispelling the myths about organ donation

Take my liver, please!

Q: I am writing to ask a favor of you. I am hoping you might consider writing a column on organ donation. I do not know how you feel about it, though as a faithful reader of your column I would think you might be in favor of it. I have been an organ donor for years and now I am in need of a heart transplant. I have included information on the National Donor Sabbath program. Thank you for your time and your very interesting and heartwarming columns. P.S. Please include me in your prayers. — K from Levittown

A: First of all, dear K, you are in my prayers right now. May the gift and miracle of healing find you speedily and lift you up to joy and life abundant. Amen

National Donor Sabbath this year is Nov. 15 to 17. There are many myths about organ donation that the website organdonor.gov clarifies in a truthful manner:

Anyone, regardless of age or medical condition, can be an organ donor. What matters is the health and condition of your organs when you die. Some people fear that if they become donors the doctors will not try to save their life so that they can harvest their organs. This is not true at all. Doctors heal until healing is impossible and only accept organ donations from people who are brain dead. Being in a coma is not enough. Only brain death is death. Rich or famous people on the waiting list do not get organs faster. A national computer system matches donated organs to recipients. The factors used in matching include blood type, time spent waiting, other important medical information, how sick the person is, and geographic location. Race, income and celebrity are NEVER considered. Open casket funerals are not a problem for organ donors. There is no cost for organ donation, and nobody can sell your organs after they are donated.

Your donations can save up to eight people and there are over 124,000 people waiting for a donation to save their life or their eyesight. You, each one of you, can be an angel of healing. Here is a list from the website of just some religious teachings about organ donation.

CATHOLICISM Organ, eye, and tissue donation is considered an act of charity and love, and transplants are morally and ethically acceptable to the Vatican. (Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, no. 86)

DISCIPLES OF CHRIST The Christian Church encourages organ and tissue donation, stating that we were created for God's glory and for sharing God's love. A 1985 resolution, adopted by the General Assembly, encourages "members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to enroll as organ donors and prayerfully support those who have received an organ transplant." (Resolution #8548 Concerning Organ Transplants, Des Moines, 1985)

EPISCOPAL The 70th General Convention of the Episcopal Church recommends and urges "all members of this Church to consider seriously the opportunity to donate organs after death that others may live, and that such decision be clearly stated to family, friends, church and attorney." (Resolution #1991-A097 Urge Members to Consider Donating Organs, 1991)

ISLAM The Fourth Conference of the Islamic Fiqh Council determined that transplantation offers "clear positive results" if practiced " … to achieve the aims of sharee'ah, which tries to achieve all that is good and in the best interests of individuals and societies and promotes cooperation, compassion and selflessness." Provided that "shar'i guidelines and controls that protect human dignity" are met, "It is permissible to transplant an organ from a dead person to a living person whose life or basic essential functions depend on that organ, subject to the condition that permission be given by the deceased before his death, or by his heirs after his death …" (Resolutions of Islamic Fiqh Council of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Fourth Conference, Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 18-23 Safar 1408 AH/6-11 February 1988 CE)

JUDAISM Judaism supports organ donation as an act of saving a life (Hebrew: pikuah nefesh). Saving a life supersedes all other concerns. The Conservative Movement's Committee on Jewish Laws and Standards has stated that organ donations after death represent not only an act of kindness but are also a "commanded obligation" which saves human lives. (On Educating Conservative Jews Regarding Organ Donations, May 1996)

SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION In 1988, the Southern Baptist Convention resolved that because "resurrection does not depend on body wholeness" and that "organ transplant technology has transformed many lives from certain death to vibrant productivity," the SBC encourages "voluntarism regarding organ donations in the spirit of stewardship, compassion for the needs of others, and alleviating suffering." (Resolution on Human Organ Donations, June 1988)

SEND QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad at godsquadquestion@aol.com or Rabbi Marc Gellman, Temple Beth Torah, 35 Bagatelle Rd., Melville, NY 11747.

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