Who would be harmed versus who could be saved

Nothing can motivate us to do things we wouldn’t normally do like the opportunity to jazz up our Facebook profiles.

As of May 1, in addition to pictures of funky hats and self-portraits in huge sunglasses, users may add “I decided to be an organ donor” to their timeline.

While your Facebook wall is not a legally-binding document, seeing these updates may leave you wondering, “what do Catholics think about this again?”

In 2000, Blessed John Paul II addressed the International Congress on Transplants and stated that “transplants are a great step forward in science’s service of man.”

He went on to quote himself, which you get to do when you’re pope, citing “Evangelium Vitae #86”: “the donation of organs, performed in an ethically acceptable manner, with a view to offering a chance of health and even of life” contributes to a culture of life.

Did you catch the fine print? Organ donation must be done in an ethically acceptable manner.

This was something I first considered when my parents discouraged me from checking the organ donor box on my driver’s license, assuring me that they would honor my wishes, but ensure that it would be ethically acceptable.

I thought they were being paranoid. Then I started reading stories of coma patients regaining consciousness and I wondered if my parents had been right.

The most chilling stories are from my friends who are nurses. Those who have witnessed organ procurement assure me it’s not as whitewashed as “Grey’s Anatomy” would like us to believe.

Obviously, this is a complex issue, but Catholics should remember a few important points about organ donation.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church” explains in paragraph 2296 that transplants from one living person to another conforms to moral law “if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good that is sought for the recipient.”

In other words, you giving blood or a kidney is a noble and Christ-like act.

However, when it comes to donation after death, it is never acceptable to “bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of
another person.”

This is what Blessed John Paul II meant when he said the act must be ethically acceptable.

Our morality professors in college broke it down like this: you can’t do evil to bring about good.

Our dignity as human beings comes not from what we are able to do or how alive we may appear to be, but from our being created by God. Just because it is possible to save someone’s life doesn’t mean it should be done by any means scientifically possible.

Procedures can even differ by hospital, depending on technology available.

In researching this issue, it’s clear that as our loving mother, the church is ready to offer answers to difficult moral questions.

However, the progress of medicine is posing these questions quite rapidly.

When faced with these difficult questions, take advantage of pastoral counsel to ensure that the dignity of all those involved is guarded.

Although it’s a difficult question, it must always first be “who would be harmed” not “who could be saved.”

About Alison Blanchet | The Catholic Miscellany 39 Articles
Alison Blanchet writes the column, Team Catholic. She is a youth director in Panama City Beach, Fla. Read her blog at http://teamcatholic.blogspot.com.