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Author Topic: Donation of your body to medical science  (Read 1641 times) Average Rating: 0
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orthonorm
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« on: February 07, 2011, 02:48:41 PM »

OK, since the recent thread of Papal organ donation, I wanted to throw this subject out to RCs and OCs in the crowd.

As far as organ donation, cremation, and body donation for medical science, here is how I understand where both stand:

RC: All are OK as long as you truly believe in the bodily resurrection and the desire (specifically here probably cremation is the extreme case) to do any of the above is not a statement in the belief of the non-bodily resurrection. This is what I have gathered from going to school with Jesuits and from other RC priests.

OC: All I have heard is that cremation is verboten, but I have had the chance to read or discussion the "exemptions" here. Obviously, the proscription against cremation can't be "magical" or necessary for bodily resurrection, since many of the Saints left the world in ashes. So I am guessing it too is a tradition of up-holding the belief in the bodily resurrection. But this is just my guess.

So, to donation of organs or one's entire body to medical science. The reason I ask, is because I have many physicians and med students as acquaintances and friends. And they say that every year there is a steady decrease in the corpses available for Gross Anatomy study and that it is becoming a real problem in terms of education.

Would it not be good to help medical students get hands on knowledge of human physiology to better prepare them to treat others by allowing them the use of your body?

Shoot.
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« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2011, 02:54:05 PM »

Donating orgnas is OK. AFAIR the whole Synod of the Church of Greece decided to do that.
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« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2011, 03:07:19 PM »

Here is something from GOA on Bioethics, although it seems a bit outdated:
http://goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8076

"Organ transplants.

In the case of organ transplants, the crucial ethical considerations are two: the potential harm inflicted upon the donor and the need of the recipient. Historically, the Orthodox Church has not objected to similar, though not identical, procedures, such as blood transfusions and skin grafts. In both cases, no radical threat to the life of the donor is perceived, and the lifesaving consequences for the recipient are substantial. Similar considerations affect the Orthodox Christian judgment of organ transplants. In no case should a person ignore or make light of the ethical implications of organ donation. Donating an organ whose loss will impair or threaten the life of the potential donor is never required and is never a moral obligation of any person. If the condition of health and the physical well-being of the donor permits, some transplants are not objectionable. Renal transplants are a case in point. A healthy person may consent to donate a kidney knowing that his or her health is not thereby impaired.

The recipient of an organ transplant ought to be in otherwise good health, and there should be a substantial expectation of restoration to normal living in order to warrant the risk to the donor."


and another from ACROD, which seems more contemporary: http://www.acrod.org/readingroom/ethics/moralissues

'Organ Donations             

Orthodoxy praises the deep and profound love its communicants express in offering parts of themselves beyond death as a contribution to the life sustaining forces of another person.  As long as those donors and physicians exert every effort to show reverence for the remains of the donor and the donor is clear in his intentions that life be improved and bettered for the recipient, Orthodoxy praises such caring individuals. In advance of such an occasion and opportunity, the donor is encouraged to unite himself in prayer that his offering be worthily accepted before the throne of the Eternal Father and in the life and being of the recipient. The body and organs of a donor should not be offered for experimentation but solely for the life and good health of a fellow human being.'
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« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2011, 05:31:05 PM »

So, to donation of organs or one's entire body to medical science. The reason I ask, is because I have many physicians and med students as acquaintances and friends. And they say that every year there is a steady decrease in the corpses available for Gross Anatomy study and that it is becoming a real problem in terms of education.

Would it not be good to help medical students get hands on knowledge of human physiology to better prepare them to treat others by allowing them the use of your body?

Shoot.

I would say no, based on the gist of everything I've read.

Preserving the image of God which we bear is more important than advancing science and health, which is a good but ultimately worldly goal. Organ donation is acceptable because it can bring life to a specific individual (as the ACROD paragraph above indicates), and it does not destroy the image of God in us. But full-body dissection for research purposes wholly defaces our image, and only works towards the nubulous goal of "advancement". The remains are then incinerated, which is a big "no" in Orthodoxy. It treats the human body as a thing to be destroyed and thrown into the trash like refuse.

Of course, if God is able to resurrect a saint whose relics are scattered around the world, He can (and will) resurrect those who undergo bodily dissection. It does not prevent the resurrection. But it is disrespectful to ourselves and to God, just as it would be to tear apart a Bible or an icon. We are icons fashioned by God's own hand, so we should not treat our bodies in this way, no matter how much science can be gleaned from our bodies.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2011, 05:32:08 PM by bogdan » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2011, 05:52:44 PM »

So, to donation of organs or one's entire body to medical science. The reason I ask, is because I have many physicians and med students as acquaintances and friends. And they say that every year there is a steady decrease in the corpses available for Gross Anatomy study and that it is becoming a real problem in terms of education.

Would it not be good to help medical students get hands on knowledge of human physiology to better prepare them to treat others by allowing them the use of your body?

Shoot.

I would say no, based on the gist of everything I've read.

Preserving the image of God which we bear is more important than advancing science and health, which is a good but ultimately worldly goal. Organ donation is acceptable because it can bring life to a specific individual (as the ACROD paragraph above indicates), and it does not destroy the image of God in us. But full-body dissection for research purposes wholly defaces our image, and only works towards the nubulous goal of "advancement". The remains are then incinerated, which is a big "no" in Orthodoxy. It treats the human body as a thing to be destroyed and thrown into the trash like refuse.

Of course, if God is able to resurrect a saint whose relics are scattered around the world, He can (and will) resurrect those who undergo bodily dissection. It does not prevent the resurrection. But it is disrespectful to ourselves and to God, just as it would be to tear apart a Bible or an icon. We are icons fashioned by God's own hand, so we should not treat our bodies in this way, no matter how much science can be gleaned from our bodies.

I would respectfully disagree. Your logic would seemingly have to apply to organ donation as well, would it not?

Perhaps it could be argued that the intent of the cadaver donor needs to be examined before reaching any conclusion. If a true believer in the Faith choses to donate his body for use by medical students so that they might better learn anatomy prior to working on living persons that may be a proper choice as a true believer would not deny the bodily resurrection nor doubt the mysteries of God in how He would accomplish the same at the time of the final judgment.  It seems that it would be preferable for medical students to learn the complexities and mysteries of the human body on a cadaver rather than by trial and error on a living soul.  While you are correct in that cremation is the norm following use by most colleges, some schools may provide for the return of the remains for burial at that time. One could determine the feasibility of that option prior to authorizing a cadaver donation.

On the other hand, if a person made that choice while purporting to be a true believer but in reality he doubted the bodily resurrection as a tenet of faith, that would be a serious issue between that person and God. However we can not fathom the state of mind of such a person unless they made a public declaration of their intent and their erroneous belief regarding the resurrection.

It is indeed a difficult subject and I hope that we get some more thoughts on the subject that may provide more specific teachings, particularly if any of the clergy who participate have encountered this issue during their careers. Thanks!

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orthonorm
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« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2011, 06:23:15 PM »

I'm talking donation to Gross Anatomy classes here. You can specifically donate to this end and select the institution to where it will go.

These classes are very important for the education of physicians of all stripes.
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« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2011, 07:02:37 PM »

Quote
The remains are then incinerated, which is a big "no" in Orthodoxy.

Not where I come from, they're not. All cadaver remains, once the Anatomy School no longer requires them, are returned to the family or person who donated the cadaver, who then make further arrangements.
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« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2011, 07:09:53 PM »

These classes are very important for the education of physicians of all stripes.

Very important? No, they are essential. Artificial models and animal dissection, while useful, are a pale substitute for the "real thing". If a medical school does not provide anatomy courses involving human dissection, then they are short-changing their students, to put it mildly.

A related matter: For those who object to human cadavers used for educational purposes, do these folks also object to post-mortem examinations/autopsies? If so, why? If not, why not?
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« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2011, 07:53:15 PM »

The body must be handled reverently, as we handle all bodies, living and dead. A priest and family members could/should be there to supervise. The room could be blessed, a memorial service could be served, and a priest could give a sermon for the edification of all.
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« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2011, 07:58:58 PM »

The body must be handled reverently, as we handle all bodies, living and dead. A priest and family members could/should be there to supervise. The room could be blessed, a memorial service could be served, and a priest could give a sermon for the edification of all.

Do you know how Gross Anatomy classes are conducted? It would a very, very long vigil for the Priest and the family.
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« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2011, 08:01:44 PM »

The body must be handled reverently, as we handle all bodies, living and dead. A priest and family members could/should be there to supervise. The room could be blessed, a memorial service could be served, and a priest could give a sermon for the edification of all.

Do you know how Gross Anatomy classes are conducted? It would a very, very long vigil for the Priest and the family.

No I don't. It was a suggestion. There must be some Orthodox protocol for this since it's nothing new.
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« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2011, 08:08:35 PM »

The body must be handled reverently, as we handle all bodies, living and dead. A priest and family members could/should be there to supervise. The room could be blessed, a memorial service could be served, and a priest could give a sermon for the edification of all.

In my time, anyone, student or member of staff, indulging in disrespectful shenanigans in the dissection room would very quickly be out on his ear. It's all part of being a "fit and proper person" to receive one's degree or diploma.

Having a priest and/or family members present would be utterly impractical, as orthonorm said.
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orthonorm
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« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2011, 08:17:52 PM »

The body must be handled reverently, as we handle all bodies, living and dead. A priest and family members could/should be there to supervise. The room could be blessed, a memorial service could be served, and a priest could give a sermon for the edification of all.

In my time, anyone, student or member of staff, indulging in disrespectful shenanigans in the dissection room would very quickly be out on his ear. It's all part of being a "fit and proper person" to receive one's degree or diploma.

Having a priest and/or family members present would be utterly impractical, as orthonorm said.

How long's it been? Friend in University of Chicago said they are up to seven or eight students per body.

As for the whole disrespectful stuff, there is a wonderful coffee table book on just that:


http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0922233349/ref=oss_product
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« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2011, 08:28:33 PM »

Since you asked about the RC take on organ donation -

There is a large and growing number of conservative RC's who are hoping to see the Vatican approval of certain types of organ donation changed. The problem is the concept of "brain death" which can be argued is not true death, particularly depending on the standards used. The obvious moral principle is that you cannot kill one person to give their organs to another. This opens the question "what does it mean to be dead?" There are long and detailed papers that say more than I can, but just pointing out that it is currently a contentious issue. It is not the moral principle in question though, it is the science/bioethics that many feel have been falsely represented.
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