Following the introduction of an opt-out system for organ donation in England in May 2020, NHS Blood and Transplant have launched ‘Leave Them Certain’, a campaign which aims to encourage individuals to talk to their families and loved ones about their organ donation decisions.
The Catholic Church has consistently encouraged its followers to consider organ donation. The act of donating organs before or after death has been considered a gift and an intrinsic good.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, ‘Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity’ (2296).
Catholics also maintain the right to exercise a freely made decision as to what happens to their body after death, otherwise this undermines the concept of donation as a gift.
Bishop Paul Mason, lead Bishop for healthcare, said,
“I welcome the ‘Leave Them Certain’ initiative as a step in the right direction of ensuring that families are always included in the end-of-life care and decisions of their loved ones.
“The death of a relative or loved one is one of the hardest and most human challenges we face but having these conversations before that time can help us to feel more at peace knowing that we are carrying out the wishes of those whom we will forever hold in our hearts.
“Young people can play an especially important role in being changemakers in the way our society speaks about end-of-life care and decisions. Indeed, as Pope St John Paull II, in his Address to the 18th International Congress of the Transplantation Society (2000) said, ‘…There is a need to instil in people’s hearts, especially in the hearts of the young, a genuine and deep appreciation of the need for brotherly love, a love that can find expression in the decision to become an organ donor.’
“It might seem a bit scary at first, but instigating these conversations ultimately gives us all more confidence to be able to speak openly about our wishes at the end of life. This will give our family and friends the certainty of knowing that even if we are unable to express these wishes in our time of dying, they will know that they are doing what we wanted.
“So, let’s start to talk more openly about organ donation and leave them certain.”
NHS Blood and Transplant said:
“The law change has been a pivotal moment for organ donation in England and awareness amongst the public is now at 75%. Following the change in the law, there is still a need for everyone in England to make their decision clear and talk to their loved ones about organ donation. Understanding the motivations for this conversation has been central to our new campaign – Leave Them Certain.”
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has produced Guidelines for Catholics on Organ Donation, and how to record this decision online via the Organ Donation Register (ODR). The ODR also allows you to record your faith beliefs so that they may be respected in the event of death and organ donation.
What’s the Catholic Church’s position on blood and organ donation? A law change will come into force in England in 2020 whereby the system will change to ‘opt out’ or ‘deemed consent’.
This brief guide presents Catholic teaching on organ donation, answers common questions Catholics may have and provides sources for further information and reflection