Wanted Dead or Alive! Organ Donation: Things to Consider

Note: This is the last article in a series of four Wanted Dead or Alive articles on the issue of Organ Donation. Part 1 - An Overview; Part 2 - Essential Medical Terminology, Part 3 - Dead Enough to Donate.

It's heart wrenching enough dealing with a loved one nearing the end of their life.

The pain can be much worse when the issue of organ donation is involved.

Such situations raise a host of questions that need to be addressed.

When is it ethically appropriate to authorize organ removal?

Is the person enrolled as a donor with the state?

Do they have an advance healthcare directive?

What do family members need to know in order to make the right, biblical decision?

The first thing to understand is that the business of organ harvesting and donating is exactly that—a business.

It’s not uncommon for financial incentives to outweigh what’s best for the dying patient and their family.

Organ harvesters will play on one’s emotions about helping someone in need.  While the need is genuine and donating is an honorable act, undo pressure is often used to force relatives into a hasty decision.

To make the right decision, there are several factors to consider.

  • Review “Wanted Dead or Alive! Part 2” to become familiar with essential medical terminology.
  • All decisions should be prayerfully made with the intent to honor and protect the sanctity of human life.
  • The overriding point to keep in mind is that nothing should be done that directly causes the death of the patient or that prolongs the dying process. 
  • An example of causing death is withholding nutrition and/or hydration.
  • Is the patient registered as an organ donor?  Most hospitals consider being registered as an organ donor legally binding and organ retrieval must be permitted regardless of family wishes.
  • Anyone wishing to cancel their registration can do so at: http://www.donatelifegeorgia.org/. A new driver’s license may also be required.
  • In addition to physician error and misdiagnosis, some patients diagnosed as brain dead or in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) can eventually recover. Also, there is no common standard for PVS conditions and not all hospitals and doctors agree on how to analyze such patients.
  • Determine what criteria for declaring a person brain dead the hospital and your specific doctor follow. This is important because hospitals and even some doctors within the same hospital can have different criteria.
  • Make sure the physician interested in harvesting organs is not involved in the decision making process.
  • Be aware that many hospitals and physicians interpret an advance directive as giving them the right to deny a patient medical intervention including nutrition and hydration, even if they or their appointed surrogate ask for it.
  • The law does not require a person to consult an attorney or physician when executing such a directive. However, asking questions is strongly advisable.

Dealing with life and death issues is complicated and painful. They present families with difficult decisions to make at a time when they are extremely vulnerable.

Aside from seeking trusted medical advice and counsel, Christians should prayerfully take the issue to the Lord with the goal of honoring His will and respecting the sanctity of human life.

(Note: This article is not medical advice. Rather, it is offered as general, Biblically-based information to aid people in making what ultimately is a very personal decision).

Sources: apologeticspress.org;

By Wayne DuBois
Media Relations Advisor