Organ Donation, Transplantation and Religion

Michael Oliver; Alexander Woywodt; Aimun Ahmed; Imran Saif


Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2011;26(2):437-444. 

In This Article

Directed Donation and Religion

Directed donation can be defined as a transplant procedure in which donors or their family members direct the organs to a group of recipients who are determined by the presence or absence of a particular characteristic, such as age, gender, ethnicity or religion.[54] Most transplant programmes do not allow directed deceased donation except for the very rare case where a potential recipient has a pre-existing relationship with the deceased donor as defined by the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) in 2006.[55] Similarly, current UK guidelines[56] emphasize unconditional altruism as the fundamental principle of all deceased organ donation and only allow for directed deceased donation in exceptional circumstances akin to those defined in the 2006 ASTS statement. Others have disagreed with this view.[57] Not much is known regarding attempts at directed deceased donation on the basis of religion. A request for directed donation was reported in a man of the Jewish faith from New York who volunteered to donate a kidney on the condition that the recipient was also of the Jewish faith.[58] The Halachic Organ Donor Society (HODS) originally promoted donation among people of the Jewish faith (D. Truog, personal communication) but now endorses donation to non-Jews.[34] It is conceivable that attempts at directed donation within religious groups as well as attitudes and beliefs in this regard are under-reported. Lam and McCollough[59] demonstrated that Chinese Americans were not generally against organ donation but greatly preferred donation to someone from their own home country and religion. It is reassuring that good rates of deceased donation across religious barriers have been reported from Israel.[60] Of note, directed donation could be very detrimental to ethnic minorities if they are excluded as recipients. It is also noteworthy that some countries have taken a proactive approach to foster the idea that donation should be altruistic and not end at religious boundaries. One good example is the 2003 organ donation campaign by the Indian Human Organ Procurement and Education (HOPE) Trust. In their evocative and prized ads, HOPE included one picture symbolizing a Hindu recipient of a Muslim heart transplant (Figure 2).

Figure 2.

Advertisement from the 2003 campaign by the Indian Human Organ Procurement and Education Trust (HOPE). Note the text in the bottom left corner, saying 'Donated organs don't see race, religion, age or sex.' Copyright by Ogilvy and Mather. Image kindly provided by Ogilvy and Mather Ltd., New Delhi, India.


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