Organ Donation, Transplantation and Religion

Michael Oliver; Alexander Woywodt; Aimun Ahmed; Imran Saif


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

In This Article

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses are a non-Trinitarian Christian denomination, distinct from mainstream Christianity, and deserve special consideration. The issue of transplantation in Jehovah's Witnesses is not straightforward and compounded by the refusal of blood transfusion. This affects transfusion of full blood, platelets and plasma.[28] Dialysis, plasma exchange, substitution of clotting factors or albumin, and erythropoetin treatment are all allowed.[28] Some have argued that consent to rescue transfusion should be a prerequisite for transplant listing.[29] Transplantation itself was not allowed for Jehovah's Witnesses until very recently. In fact, religious guidance from the 1960s stated

When men of science conclude that this normal process will no longer work and they suggest removing the organ and replacing it directly with an organ from another human, this is simply a shortcut. Those who submit to such operations are thus living off the flesh of another human. That is cannibalistic. However, in allowing man to eat animal flesh Jehovah God did not grant permission for humans to try to perpetuate their lives by cannibalistically taking into their bodies human flesh, whether chewed or in the form of whole organs or body parts taken from others.[30]

This view of transplantation was only revised in the 1980s, and contemporary guidance views the decision for or against transplantation as an individual choice,[31] under the assumption that no blood is transplanted. Since then, small case series of kidney and kidney–pancreas transplantation in Jehovah's Witnesses have been reported.[32] Early post-operative deaths in anaemic patients, however, have been described as well.[33]


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