ROME (CNS): Calling organ transplants a “great step forward in science’s service of man” and a “complex and delicate theme”, Pope John Paul II outlined moral guidelines for the procedure and for future transplant research.
The Pope condemned any commercialisation or discrimination in human organ distribution, stressed the need for informed donor consent and cautiously endorsed brain death as an indicator of a potential organ donor’s death.
Speaking on August 29 to more than 4000 transplant experts from about 60 countries, the Pope also encouraged related research into new therapies, including the use of artificial or animal organs.
The 18th International Congress of the Transplantation Society met from August 27-September 1 in Rome.
While hailing progress in transplant technology, the Pope said such procedures must always respect human dignity.
“Every medical procedure performed on the human person is subject to limits,
not just the limits of what is technically possible, but also limits determined by respect for human nature itself, understood in its fullness,” he said.
Emphasising that the human body is not “a mere complex of tissues, organs and functions”, the Pope condemned “any procedure which tends to commercialise human organs or to consider them as items of exchange or trade” as morally unacceptable.
“To use the body as an ‘object’ is to violate the dignity of the human person,” he said.
Informed consent from the organ donor and the recipient is a necessary ethical requirement, he said, because it ensures the “human ‘authenticity’ of such a decisive gesture”.
The Pope said those who choose to donate their organs help to build up “a genuine culture of life”.
“It is not just a matter of giving away something which belongs to us but of giving something of ourselves,” he said.