Altruism in Perspective

The Sanctity of Life and the Resurrection - Fifth in a Series

Several days ago all the major networks covered a six-way organ transplant ‘swapportunity’ story. The CBS Evening News video is below. Donors and recipients are shown in a happy press conference.

This type of news is designed to encourage live kidney donation as well as signing drivers’ licenses. The donors are special people whom we admire. No one should belittle their unselfish acts. However there are voices of caution and warning against such altruism that should be heard as well.

On the bottom right of this page, a Blog, Living Donors Are People Too, provides information to tell the other side of the story, and some references are on Biotech Blog’s previous series about Live Kidney Donation.

A site that focuses more on organ donation by those presumed to be dead,, offers a download, “Do You Want to Be an Organ Donor?” Here is one question and answer provided by Dr. Paul Byrne who has sounded the alarm about organ donation over many years.

Q: What happens to the donor after vital organs are taken?
A: After the heart, whole liver, pancreas and/or intestines are excised, the donor is truly dead. When a portion of the liver, a part of one lung, one of two lungs, or one of two kidneys is taken, the donor will be weaker. When a portion of the liver is taken, regeneration of the liver might occur. When one kidney is taken, the donor will no longer have a kidney in reserve for himself and might have reduced kidney function. Long term follow up raises concern about related heart disease.

In view of these facts, it may be helpful to think about Christian martyrdom compared with organ donation (from the Flesh & Bone & The Protestant Conscience ebook). This list can help us to think about altruism in the context of organ donation as well:

  Christian Martyrdom  vs. Organ Donation
 1 In path of danger because of persecution  vs. Put oneself in path of danger*
 2 Result is physical death  vs. Result is usually life extension for the recipient, but could be death for donor or recipient
 3 Proves faith and love  vs. Proves love for family member or humanity
 4 Purpose is to maintain a Christian witness, help others (Dan 3:16-18; Mat 10:22, 33; Rev 3:21)  vs. Purpose is to help a fellow human but at the risk of compromising ones own health (read the facts)
 5 May affect the lives of family members; must trust God will take care of them  vs. May lengthen the life of the recipient; donor’s family members could suffer if repercussions occur
 6 Encourages others to stand firm in Faith and not be afraid  vs. Encourages others to be donors, but if they donate, a harmful outcome may occur
 7 Obedience to God’s Word  vs. The Christian has not balanced the wisdom of Ps. 139 against the act of donating
 8 “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”  vs. Furthers the agenda of organ donation enthusiasts
 9 The Christian martyr knows he has eternal life.  vs. Is it always God’s will to lengthen a life? Can we know that?
10 Could protect innocent people  vs. Innocent victims are preyed upon or sold for their organs. Example
*Without a doubt, the more that organ donation is promoted and approved by the churches, the more a tender-hearted person will feel a constraint of conscience to donate.


While the purpose of this blog series is to set forth Scriptural reasons why belief in the doctrine of the resurrection means a Christian should not share body parts nor be cremated, it is also interesting to consider why a particular Scripture may NOT be quoted in support of organ donation. The following pertains to the person who has signed his driver's license.

A Canadian Christian physician, Dr. Greg Kenyon, explains why Jesus’ words, Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13), should not be construed to uphold organ donation by presumably dead donors.

Can a person allow his life to be taken to help someone else? Do we not accept this in other circumstances, like a person taking a bullet, or diving in front of a train to save someone else? These are likely the nearest thing to a selfless act possible. One is not thinking about death, or reflecting on the worth of their life, when they take a bullet. With organ donation, there is time to think.

A healthy person, whose life is good is unlikely to choose death and give away vital organs. Some of us might accept an elderly person, who is near death, choosing to shorten his life to give away vital organs, but what about a 25 year old healthy man? Can he do the same thing, as long as he is giving his life for another? We tend to think of organ donation when a person is near death anyway and “does not have much life left,” rather than from a healthy person. If by “laying down one’s life” we are referring only to those already dying, is this really like “laying down one’s life” as Christ did? It appears more like saying, “My life is not worth much anymore. I might as well give it up and allow someone worth more than me to live.” Is this an expression of the greatest love referred to in John 15:13?...

Jesus willingly gave His life. He was not dying when He chose to give His life. He was very much alive. If when saying, “Christians may consider donating vital organs to others in need, even when this may bring about their death,” we refer to a man like the 25 year old mentioned above, then I think I can agree that it may fit the passage, that is, as long as it does not require another person to sin. Unfortunately, a person cannot take out his own organs. The man’s life must be taken by others. (The surgical team, the anesthetists, etc) I don’t think this can be done without their breaking the 6th commandment to not kill? Read more.

Dr. Kenyon also offers loving words for any who have pursued biomedical technologies that are not supported by the Word of God.

I believe Dr. Kenyon is not opposed to live kidney donation. He does not refer to a kidney as a vital organ since a person can live with only one, whereas Dr. Byrne does refer to a kidney as a vital organ. If there are debilitating consequences following a live kidney transplant, the lost kidney will be viewed as vital. So much depends on a person's perspective.

Iran has a legal market for the organs, but the system doesn't always work | Shashank Bengali and Ramin Mostaghim | 15 October 2017

Gran Mezquita de Isfahán, Isfahán, Irán, 2016-09-20, DD 71-73 HDR.jpg
By Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
The advertisements are scrawled in marker on brick walls and tree trunks, and affixed to telephone utility boxes, sidewalks and a road sign pointing the way to one of Iran’s leading hospitals.

“Kidney for sale,” read the dozens of messages, accompanied by phone numbers and blood types, splashed along a tree-lined street opposite the Hasheminejad Kidney Center in Tehran.

New ads appear almost daily. Behind each is a tale of individual woe — joblessness, debt, a family emergency — in a country beset by economic despair.

“If I could sell my kidney, I could get out of debt,” Ali Rezaei, a bankrupt 42-year-old air-conditioning installer, said in the shade of a tree across from the kidney hospital. “I would sell my liver too.”

In fact, Iran offers people a legal way to sell their kidneys — and is the only country in the world to do so. A government foundation registers buyers and sellers, matches them up and sets a fixed price of $4,600 per organ. Since 1993, doctors in Iran have performed more than 30,000 kidney transplants this way.

But the system hasn’t always worked as it’s been billed. Sellers have learned that they can cut side deals … Read more...

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...and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind ... the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind ...the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. -Genesis 1


A SistersSite eBook

Flesh and Bone and The Protestant Conscience is an e-book on It is 99¢ and in the Amazon lending library as well. The book description follows.

Would you let your conscience be your guide?

Does God care if the skin and bone of the dead are passed along to the living for medical uses? Is organ donation OK with God? Should you sign a Living Will?

Did you know that dead organ donors are often anesthetized before their organs are removed? Do you know the current definition of death? The conscience cannot function without facts.

As we ponder the ethics of in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and man-made chimeras, our thoughts trail off. How then should we live? (Ez 33:10)

How should a Christian think about euthanasia by starvation when doctors and the state attorney general all agree it is time to withhold feeding from a brain injured patient? Some things are family matters, but someday it may be our family.

Here is a small book to help you think about whether you want to sign your driver's license, donate a kidney, cremate your loved one, and many other practical questions that may arise in the course of your healthcare decisions or watch over others.

It offers a special focus on the doctrine of the Resurrection that is related to such decisions. Sunday School classes and Bible Study groups could use this book to facilitate discussion about the issues covered.