NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–More than 94,000 patients currently are on a national waiting list to receive an organ transplant, and an average of 18 people die each day because not enough organs are available to meet the demand.
Feb. 14 is National Donor Day, a time for increased awareness of the need and a time for urging healthy people to do what they can to help.
In 1988, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution encouraging “voluntarism regarding organ donations in the spirit of stewardship, compassion for the needs of others, and alleviating suffering.”
The resolution noted that complete resurrection of the body when Christ returns “does not depend on bodily wholeness at death,” and it said organ donation for research or transplantation is “a matter of personal conscience.”
“Organ donation is an issue that all adult believers should prayerfully consider,” Don Buckley, a Southern Baptist physician in Pensacola, Fla., told Baptist Press. “Advances in organ transplantation have made such procedures commonplace today, helping to extend many lives. Nevertheless there remains a serious shortage of transplant donors.”
Buckley said people should make their wishes known regarding donation with their loved ones and their personal physicians.
“Certainly such a donation provides an unselfish witness of Christ’s love that extends beyond our death,” Buckley said. “The donation of organs in no way dishonors our mortal bodies but rather allows us to be good stewards of our bodily temple through the end of our lives. After death, our incorruptible resurrection bodies have no need for these mortal organs we leave behind.”
According to organdonor.gov, people of all ages are potential organ and tissue donors. Both newborns and senior adults have been donors, and the condition of the organs is more important than age.
Organs cannot be stored and must be used within hours of removing them from the donor’s body, the site said, and while most donated organs are from people who have died, a living person can donate a kidney, part of the pancreas, part of a lung, part of the liver or part of the intestine.
“Corneas, the middle ear, skin, heart valves, bone, veins, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments can be stored in tissue banks and used to restore sight, cover burns, repair hearts, replace veins, and mend damaged connective tissue and cartilage in recipients,” the government-sponsored website said.
Kurtiss Ewell, a member of Northside Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., received a kidney from a woman he met while the two worked in a shelter for Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005. Ewell, a diabetic, suffered from kidney disease, and Dean, a Tennessee Baptist disaster relief worker, noticed that Ewell had to stop and rest more often than other workers.
God led Dean to see if she could be a match for Ewell, and on Jan. 3, 2006, Ewell received a kidney from Dean and avoided having to start dialysis treatments as his health was in a downward spiral.
“I have never had one moment when I questioned doing this,” Dean said. “I heard God speak. For every question there has been an answer. I get to be a part of God’s miracle.”
Organ donors who are still living should be physically fit, in good health, between the ages of 18 and 60, and not have or have had diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, kidney disease or heart disease, according to the organdonor.gov website.
Of the 24,817 transplants performed in 2004, about one-quarter of the organs came from living donors, and single kidney donation was the most frequent living donor procedure.
Each year, about 35,000 Americans are diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, such as leukemia, which can be treated by a bone marrow or blood cell transplant, according to the Saturn National Donor Day website. Just one in three patients will find a donor match within their family, so a significant need exists for tissue donors as well as organ donors.
Also, 60 percent of Americans are eligible to give blood, but only 5 percent actually donate. It is safe to donate blood every 56 days, organdonor.gov said.
Steve Lemke, provost and professor of philosophy and ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, worked with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission to outline the SBC’s stance on the issue of organ donation.
He noted to Baptist Press that since the 1988 resolution was adopted because organ donation is life-affirming, “for the same reason the convention does not condone euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, or harvesting of fetal tissue for the procurement of organs.”
“While Baptists entrust the ultimate decision about organ donation to individual conscience, biblical principles such as the sanctity of human life, sacrificial and selfless Christlike love, and the compassionate alleviation of suffering would appear to justify organ donation,” Lemke said.
Visit www.organdonor.gov for more information.