Organ Donation, Transplantation and Religion

Michael Oliver; Alexander Woywodt; Aimun Ahmed; Imran Saif


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

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Hinduism is the predominant religion in South Asia with ~ 1 billion followers. It has no founder and no universal authority. Hindus believe in transmigration of the soul and reincarnation, whereby the deeds of an individual in this life will eventually determine its fate in the next. Another important tenet of Hinduism is to help those who are suffering, and Daan, or selfless giving, ranks third among its Niyamas (virtuous acts).[36,37] However, the physical integrity of the dead body is not seen as crucial to reincarnation of the soul:

As a person puts on new garments, giving up the old ones. The soul similarly accepts new material bodies giving up the old and useless ones.[38]

Interestingly, reports about the use of body parts to benefit others are also deeply embedded in Hindi mythology. In fact, the earliest depiction of xenotransplantation is the case of Ganesha, one of the best known and most widely worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon, who is pictured with an elephant head. Various Hindu scholars have endorsed organ donation publicly. Hasmukh Velji Shah of the World Council of Hindus stated that

The important issue for a Hindu is that which sustains life should be accepted and promoted as Dharma (righteous living). Organ donation is an integral part of our living.[37]


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