From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Council Affirms Organ, Tissue, Blood Donations

Date Tue, 20 Apr 2004 16:12:05 -0500


April 20, 2004

ELCA Council Affirms Organ, Tissue, Blood Donations

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Church Council of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) adopted a social policy
resolution on "The Donation of Organs, Tissue and Whole Blood."
The 11-point resolution said the ELCA "regards the donation of
organs, tissue and whole blood as an act of stewardship and as
appropriate means for contributing to the health and well being
of other persons," and it urged Lutherans to consider donating
organs, tissue and whole blood.
     The Church Council is the ELCA's board of directors and
serves as the legislative authority of the church between
churchwide assemblies.	The council met here April 17-18.
Assemblies are held every other year; the next is Aug. 8-14,
2005, in Orlando, Fla.
     The social policy resolution was based on "Caring for
Health: Our Shared Endeavor," a social statement adopted by the
2003 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.	The council can adopt resolutions
calling for action on matters of social concern in accord with
the church's teachings and policies.
     Background information accompanying the resolution noted "an
acute shortage of organs, tissue and, often, whole blood" in the
United States and elsewhere in the world.  Advances in medical
technology increase the need for such donations, it said.
     The purpose of the resolution was to address concerns that
"arise as a consequence of these shortages," such as equitable
distribution, high costs, the sale and illegal "trafficking" of
organs and tissue, and evaluating proposals to increase supplies
of organs and tissue, accompanying information said.
     The ELCA was formed in 1988 from the merger of the American
Lutheran Church, Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and
Lutheran Church in America (LCA).  The resolution referred to
documents of the former LCA -- a 1982 social statement on "Death
and Dying" that encouraged donation as a means of sharing life
with others and a 1984 resolution on organ donation.

The text of the resolution follows:

     In light of the situation and the longstanding commitments
of this church and its predecessors, the ELCA affirms that it:
     + regards the donation of organs, tissue, and whole blood as
an act of stewardship and as appropriate means for contributing
to the health and well being of other persons;
     +	recognizes that the donation of live organs (e.g., a
kidney) can be an expression of sacrificial love for a neighbor
in need;
     +	recognizes that the donation of whole blood and renewable
tissue (e.g., bone marrow) by those who are able can be an
expression of care for a neighbor in need;
     +	urgently encourages its members to consider donating
organs, tissue, and whole blood;
     +	encourages those willing to donate organs or tissue to
communicate their wishes to family members and appropriate
professionals such as a pastor or other rostered church leader,
physician, or other health care provider;
     +	urges those individuals, as well, to make the necessary
legal arrangements, including the use of a signed donor card and
other legal instruments such as living wills and durable powers
of attorney for health care;
     +	affirms that the human dignity of all donors and
recipients should be respected and that all coercion and
manipulation be absent from the donation process;
     +	calls upon its pastors and other rostered leaders to
become familiar with the moral and legal issues as well as with
clinical procedures involved in organ and tissue donations so
that they may be prepared to counsel persons and families
considering donation;
     +	urges its pastors and other rostered leaders,
congregations, synods, agencies, and institutions to initiate and
sponsor programs of education and moral deliberation on organ,
tissue, and whole blood donation;
     +	calls upon government to: a) maintain or to develop
public policies that will encourage voluntary donations; b)
discourage coercive donations; c) forbid the buying and selling
of human organs, tissue, and whole blood; d) hold accountable
those involved in such illegal activities; e) and ensure the
efficient, equitable access to organs, tissue, and whole blood
for medical procedure;
     +	recognizes the existence of various efforts (presumed
consent, xenotransplantation, cloning organs and so forth) to
increase the supply of organs and tissue that do not involve
buying and selling them.  It further recognizes that some of
these may represent notable shifts in the economic, moral, social
and theological assumptions of current practice. This church
calls for continuing deliberation and careful moral assessment of
such proposals.
-- -- --
     "Rostered" leaders of the ELCA are lay and ordained
ministers of the church.  Lay ministers of the ELCA are
associates in ministry, deaconesses and diaconal ministers.
     "Xenotransplantation" is the transfer of an organ or tissue
from one species to another.
-- -- --
     ELCA social statements are available at on the Internet.
Social policy actions of the church are listed at on the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

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