Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Organ Donations (1) A Christian Family Physician's Perspective

Written by Dr. Greg Kenyon
I have been a Family Physician in Mitchell, Ontario for the past eight years. In my training, I had exposure to organ donation, both in the classroom and on the hospital wards. In my surgical rotations I took care of some of these patients, although I don't remember assisting at any major transplant surgery. I did have stirrings of concern in my conscience, but I did not seriously consider this issue before God. Two of my patients in Mitchell have had major transplants. One was a diabetic who received a cadaver kidney ten years ago. He died recently after failure of the transplanted kidney. The other is a young girl, who is doing well ten years after a liver transplant. With these I was not directly involved in the decision to proceed with the transplant. Also, I have never been sure it was right to sign the donor portion of my drivers licence. This was in part due to ignorance, having never studied the issue thoroughly. Over time, the stirrings of my conscience have grown, directing me to the need to search the Scriptures to be sure what we are doing is right before God.

My more common exposure to organ donation include transfusions of blood products and cornea transplants. With these I have simply accepted what I was taught during my training as being right. Growing as a Christian involves re-evaluating many practices and beliefs in light of God's Word. It is interesting that it takes the seemingly big things, like liver or heart transplants, to make me consider more seriously what the Bible teaches about the seemingly smaller things like, blood transfusions and cornea transplants.

Jesus said, ÒHe that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in muchÓ (Luke 16:10). We are encouraged by Jesus to take no part of our lives for granted. We should be trying every day to know the Scriptures and to know what they teach in all areas of life.

I will try to bring the need to apply the Bible to organ donation closer to home with the following story. In your congregation there is a thirty-six year old father of six young children who has insulin-requiring-diabetes. Traditional treatments of diabetes will likely result in long term complications including eye damage, kidney damage, nerve and feet damage, and result in disability while he is still in an active stage of life. You have been told that through a recent development it looks that he could be cured.

With today's technology doctors are saying that it is possible with a simple injection to implant some human insulin producing donor cells. A breakthrough has opened the possibility for many diabetics to be treated. After studying many aborted fetuses they have managed to have fetal insulin producing cells which reproduce themselves in the lab. Now millions of cells are available. (Please note that such a breakthrough is possible, but not yet reality.)

You have learned that this member of your congregation is planning to have this procedure. You are visiting with him to express your concern. He tells you he has thought and prayed about this a lot, although he admits that you are the first person he has talked to. He says that he realizes that the original cells came from an intentionally aborted baby but the actual cells that he will be getting are produced in the lab. He knows that abortion is wrong, but having this procedure will not require the abortion of another fetus (unborn baby). He would never have encouraged abortion in the first place and believes that if God's law had been honoured by the scientists, God would have provided the cells to cure diabetes by another means. He sees a similarity between this sin of abortion and David's sin of adultery with Bathsheba. David's sin was wrong, but God allowed the line of Christ to come from it. So, God allows a good treatment to come out of the sin of an abortion.

His wife is not too sure, but is willing to submit to her husband and keeps thinking of losing her husband while their children are still young.

Now it is your turn. They are sitting quietly awaiting your response. Although you may not be sure about the rightness or wrongness of the procedure, there are many issues which ought to be explored. More information is needed. Where did this father get his information? Is it accurate? Has he considered godly counsel? Is his assessment of what the Bible teaches correct? Has he listened to his wife's thoughts?

This example is not unrealistic. I am a member of a Free Reformed congregation who is a thirty-six year old father of six young children and I have insulin-requiring-diabetes. Although this treatment with fetal cells is not readily available, it is possible. Another issue, I may personally have to face, is a kidney transplant, since diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure for which transplantation is considered a treatment of choice. How do we respond when expected to give counsel about these things? How do we decide what is right?

The topic of organ donation holds a certain sense of appeal. The technology is exciting and the results are so amazing that we must wonder at God's creation. On the other hand, the part of organ donation that challenges the boundaries between life and death ought to be repulsive to us.

As we consider the issues surrounding organ donation, we may focus so narrowly on the rightness or wrongness of what our brother is planning that we fail to focus on what is most important. Is this not where the Pharisees failed? They studied until they thought they knew all the rules and focused on the keeping of rules rather than on the condition of the heart. To guard against this error we need to keep in mind the task that is before us. Consider Paul's example in 2 Corinthians 5. He says that he no longer considers anyone as the world does. Paul considers his brethren as Christ does, as new creations. Paul and his brethren have the ministry of reconciliation. "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us." He sees his task as that of imploring his brethren to be reconciled to God. As we consider the issues, such as the pressure to donate or receive organs, our responses should take into account the needs of his heart. We need to consider how the opportunity can be used to guide our brother closer to our Lord.

Although the condition of our brother's heart is most important, we still need to consider the finer details of organ donations. Paul instructs us to "Test all things and hold fast to what is good." We are to find out what is acceptable to the Lord and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove or expose them. This requires, first, that we know and desire to follow the Word of our Lord. Like Timothy, we need "to study to show ourselves approved unto God, as workmen that need not be ashamed, using the Word correctly". We must know something about the world in order to expose "the unfruitful works of darkness." We need knowledge about organ donations so, with the guidance of Scripture, we can determine what is fruitful and what is not.

One challenge is that "the deceiver, that old serpent called the Devil and Satan who deceives the whole world," is doing what he can to hide from us the immoral aspects of organ donation. The world tells how organs save lives and brings good from death. It does not tell us about forty years of experimentation on aborted fetuses (babies). For these reasons I hope to spend some time looking at the facts of organ donation. We will consider, in the light of Scripture, if it is permissible to use part of one person in the body of another. If it is permissible, in what circumstances is it so? Therefore, in future articles we will consider in some detail the definition of death and consider how society is redefining death to suit its purposes.

1. Matthew 23:25-27 - "you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence." Matthew 15:3-11 - "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commanments of men."
2. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 - Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we (him) no more. Therefore if any man (be) in Christ, (he is) a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.(he is; or, let him be) And all things (are) of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech (you) by us: we pray (you) in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him (to be) sin for us, who knew know sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
3. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 NKJV
4. Ephesians 5:10-11
5. 2 Timothy 3:15-16 - Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane (and) vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.
6. Revelation 12:9

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