|True Gift of Self is Pro Life|
29th Sep, 2018
By Dr Jeanette Pinto
This Blog is by courtesy of https://indiancatholicmatters.org/true-gift-of-self-is-pro-life/
By Dr Jeanette Pinto –
“The only true gift is a portion of thyself” – Ralph W. Emerson
How can one give a portion of oneself as a gift? Strange! But true. There’s a new cultural climate that we need to first understand; it is the gifting of parts of your body as a life giver, called organ donation. Organ donation is the harvesting of an individual’s organs after he or she dies for the purpose of transplanting them into another person. The person who gives the organs is called a donor while a person who receives the organ is called a recipient.
Are organ donor special people? Yes, they are pro-life people. Well, all of us can be organ donors, irrespective of age, caste, religion, community, current or past medical condition. Children can also be organ donors after taking consent for organ donation from their parents. In that case, which organs and tissues can be donated? Vital organs like heart, liver, kidneys, intestines, lungs, and pancreas can be donated only in case of ‘brain death’ of the donor. However, other tissues like corneas, heart valves, skin, bones etc. can be donated only in case of natural death.
Why should people donate their organs?
Simply because, each year thousands of people die while waiting for a transplant, because no suitable donor can be found for them. There seems to be a never ending need. Every year in India five lakh people die because of non-availability of organs. Two lakh people die of liver disease, and 50,000 die from heart disease. Besides there are thousands who await kidney, corneal and skin transplants.
I recently read in the TOI of 12 Aug 2018, of this pro-life hero. She was none other than Vasantha Rao of Bangalore who wished to donate her organs after she passed away. Although many of us can be heroes like her we hesitate due to lack of awareness or are not inclined to make the true gift of self. Vasantha’s last wish was fulfilled by her three sons and it gave them a sense of joy and peace despite the irreparable loss of their dear mother. Pledging ones organs during one’s lifetime can be a hard decision, wondering how your corpse will be mutilated.
Why should one donate his/her organs?
One can understand it is difficult to think about organ donation when you have just lost a loved one; however organ donation is a generous and worthwhile decision that can save many lives, like orphans in need, vulnerable people, soldiers who have lost a limb or are incapacitated etc. By donating your organs, each person can save the lives of up to 7 individuals by organs donation, and enhance the lives of over 50 people by way of tissue donation. Isn’t that amazing? It is called an anatomical gift.
What is the Catholic Church teaching on Organ donation?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: “Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity.” (2296) what a wonderful gesture of life-giving love!
In his 1995 Encyclical Letter, The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II wrote movingly about the prevalent culture of death that so often disregards the sacredness of all human life. But there is a great change in science, and law and public opinion. He exhorts us to build up this new culture of human life, with special concern for the weak and defenceless in our midst. Who might some of these be? Surely the unfortunate blind, burned cases, those having lost a limb or organs in accidents and the like.
In part IV of the same encyclical, the Holy Father addresses us as “people of life and for life,” and stresses strengthening our many relationships, and writes: “The Gospel of life is to be celebrated in daily living, which should be filled with self-giving love for others…in the many different acts of selfless generosity. Heroic actions…are a sharing in the mystery of the cross, in which Jesus reveals the value of every person, and how life attains its fullness in the sincere gift of self.”
Then he gives examples of such sharing, including the following: “Everyday heroism, made up of gestures of sharing, big or small, builds up a culture of life. A particularly praiseworthy example of such gestures is the donation of organs, performed in an ethically acceptable manner, with a view to offering a chance of health and even of life itself to the sick that sometimes have no other hope.”
What happens to the rest of the body after the organs are removed?
The remains after organ donation or medical research must be treated with reverence and entombed or buried. A few diocesan cemeteries donate gravesites and conduct burial services for the internment of the cremated remains of those who donated their bodies to science for research.
Does the Catholic Church permit people to donate their bodies to a medical centre after death?
The answer is a resounding “Yes”. The intent is to enable others to live longer if any viable organs can be used to provide the material for a particular research that might prevent disease in the future. Following any procedures, the remains are then cremated. In fact, in October 2014, Pope Francis met with the Transplantation Committee for the council of Europe and called the act of organ donation as “a testimony of love for our neighbour.”
As medical technology advances, thousands of people could be helped by organ donors. It is an opportunity to save life as well as enhance the quality of life for some. We must of course respect individual autonomy and get voluntary consent for the person’s disposition of their remains following death. We certainly need to come together and save lives especially that of our children. So pledge your organs and make a difference.