Organ Donation and the Right to Die: What Christians Should Consider

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This article is part of The Third Third of Life Toolkit—a collection of resources for ministry to and with people ages 55 and over, brought to you by two ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America: Disability Concerns and Faith Formation Ministries.

Although organ donation and right to die are very different issues, they both raise bioethical questions that Christians should consider. The resources gathered here provide facts and statistics and suggest Christian responses from different perspectives that may be helpful for discussions in your congregation. 

Bioethics in General

  • Bioethics: A Reformed Look at Life and Death Choices. This book from Faith Alive helps Christians look at the two issues discussed on this page—plus others, such as abortion, assisted reproduction, and stem cell research. A helpful book for groups who are deeply concerned about bioethical issues and want to learn more.

Organ Donation

The amazing scientific advances that have made organ transplants possible have also raised difficult ethical issues. Who is eligible for transplants when organs are so limited? Who decides?

  • Scarce Resources and Christian Compassion. Ruth Bernd Groenhout raises some of the difficult ethical issues that surround organ transplants. She notes that the answers to questions about these issues may not always be the ones we want to hear.

  • Organ and Tissue Donation: The Facts clearly outlines the facts and statistics about organ donation in Ontario and is representative of the facts in other locations in Canada as well as in the United States.

  • Kidney Transplant Result of Divine Intervention is a moving account of God at work through one church member’s organ donation to another.

  • In Waiting in Darkness, Liz Niehoff describes her work as a chaplain with transplant patients, where she hears stories of resurrection-like transformation.

  • In Congregation Boosts Organ Donor Registrations, Anita Brinkman describes how one Ontario congregation supported a member of their community by having an “organ donation blitz.”

  • Theological Perspective on Organ and Tissue Donation. This webpage lists the stances of many religious groups on the issue of organ transplants. Although the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the Reformed Church in America are not cited in the list, their views are reflected in many of the Christian statements provided. 

Medical Aid in Dying

Medical aid in dying is now legal in Canada and (as of 2020) in nine U.S. states plus the District of Columbia: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D.C. The articles below will acquaint you with the facts and with Christian opinions on both sides of this issue.

  • Pro-Life Series: Physician-Assisted Suicide. Mark Stephenson explores some end-of-life questions and explains why he supports allowing people to die without major medical intervention but also why he does not believe in physician-assisted suicide.

  • I’m a Christian with Stage IV Cancer. I Want Death with Dignity. The author, Corinne Johns-Treat, a devout Christian, explains her reasons for wanting to die with dignity and why it might involve taking medication to end her life.

  • Response to Physician-Assisted Suicide Ruling. This 2015 letter encourages churches to speak into Canada’s law on assisted suicide. Also included is a statement from Synod 2000 of the CRC on the issue of assisted suicide.

  • How to Make Doctors Think about Death. Theresa Brown, a hospice nurse, argues that we should have guidelines that help a medical team decide when a cure is impossible and comfort is the more compassionate choice.

  • Hope in the Face of Death. John Mulder raises some important questions about end-of-life issues and invites readers to consider the options of hospice and palliative care. The article includes questions for discussion.

FOR THOUGHT OR DISCUSSION

  • Organ donation: balance some of the ethical issues raised by Ruth Bernd Groenhout’s article “Scarce Resources and Christian Compassion” with some of the stories of blessing and new life in other articles on organ donation listed here. Where do you stand on this issue, and why?

  • The articles here on medical aid in dying present Christian viewpoints from quite different perspectives. Where do you stand on this issue, and why?

QUESTIONS?

If you’re part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and you have questions about how to strengthen your church’s ministry to and with people in the third third of life, one of Faith Formation Ministries’ Regional Catalyzers would love to talk with you about ideas and strategies.

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