Body transplants?

If this becomes medically possible, would it be moral?:

nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/06/head-transplant-surgery.html?mid=twitter_nymag

I’ve long wondered about the morality of organ transplants. As far as I know the Church has only spoken of it in the new Catechism, which isn’t meant to teach new dogma, but explain the Church’s past teachings (which are not existent on this subject).

What do you think?

I’ve long wondered about the morality of organ transplants.

Why?

This is a ridiculous idea and would be immoral.

Ed

A head transplant could be morally permissible if in harmony with the following example Church statements:*[T]he Gospel of life is to be celebrated above all in daily living, which should be filled with self-giving love for others. . . . Over and above such outstanding moments, there is an everyday heroism, made up of gestures of sharing, big or small, which build up an authentic culture of life. A particularly praiseworthy example of such gestures is the donation of organs, performed in an ethically acceptable manner, with a view to offering a chance of health and even of life itself to the sick who sometimes have no other hope (Evangelium Vitae, #86).

Organ transplants are not morally acceptable if the donor or those who legitimately speak for him have not given their informed consent. Organ transplants conform with the moral law and can be meritorious if the physical and psychological dangers and risk incurred by the donor are proportionate to the good sought for the recipient. It is morally inadmissible directly to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of the other persons (CCC#2296).*Further reading at Catholic Education

Why have you wondered about the morality of organ transplants when the church has clearly taught on the matter, and prior to the Catechism?

Where do you draw the line? Is it moral to replace all of your organs to live longer, instead of excepting death? Are body transplants moral? If you were to explain organ donation to an aborigine, he would find it highly unnatural. We are numb to this things in our society.

Pius XII was the first to say organ transplants were ok in some Addresses. However, he also spoke that the moment of death must be determined by medical experts and “does not fall within the competence of the Church.” (The Prolongation of Life in The Pope Speaks 4:4 1958). I think this is clearly wrong. Just as the Church has the right to say when life begins in order to speak on abortion (a moral issue), so it must have the right to say when life ends, in order to address the moral issues. As long as the Church is just saying these things in Addresses and as a minor point in an Encyclical, we are not given must security as to its truth

I think body transplants wouldn’t be moral for one single reason: one healthy body could save several lives instead of just one, by transplanting the working organs to many people who need them.

I mean: 2 lungs, 2 kidneys, 1 liver, 1 heart, 1 pancreas, bone marrow, blood… that’s at least 9 people you can save with one body.

Medicine is complicated, as we have to make this sort of decision: whose life is “worth” more? But it would be difficult to decide upon saving that one guy through a very risky surgery, or saving those two people who need a kidney…

Why is there a line? It implies there is immorality in treatment that grows as the scale of medical treatment grows. You’ll need to explain that. Does the immorality start with surgery, or mending a broken bone with a pin? The only immorality I see would be to pursue a hopeless case for that is wasteful and deprives others. Identifying such a case may be a matter of judgement.

You say it is “clearly wrong” for the Church to not be able to state the moment of death given that it does identify the moment of the creation of life. This is flawed reasoning. The two things in question are different, so a capacity pertaining to one need not necessarily attach to the other. Death is not even the physical reverse of creating life - it is a different process altogether.

Just as the Church has the right to say when life begins in order to speak on abortion (a moral issue), so it must have the right to say when life ends, in order to address the moral issues.

The principal capacity the church exercises concerning the early stages of life is the moral teaching that killing the unborn is wrong - a teaching which is unchangeable. Certainly the Church states that a person is a human, a person, from the moment of fertilisation - which I think is arrived at by reason and consistent with modern science:

This Congregation is aware of the current debates concerning the beginning of human life, concerning the individuality of the human being and concerning the identity of the human person. The Congregation recalls the teachings found in the Declaration on Procured Abortion: “From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a new life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. To this perpetual evidence … modern genetic science brings valuable confirmation. It has demonstrated that, from the first instant, the programme is fixed as to what this living being will be: a man, this individual-man with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization is begun the adventure of a human life, and each of its great capacities requires time … to find its place and to be in a position to act”. This teaching remains valid and is further confirmed, if confirmation were needed, by recent findings of human biological science which recognize that in the zygote resulting from fertilization the biological identity of a new human individual is already constituted. Certainly no experimental datum can be in itself sufficient to bring us to the recognition of a spiritual soul; nevertheless, the conclusions of science regarding the human embryo provide a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of this first appearance of a human life: how could a human individual not be a human person? The Magisterium has not expressly committed itself to an affirmation of a philosophical nature, but it constantly reaffirms the moral condemnation of any kind of procured abortion. This teaching has not been changed and is unchangeable.
vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19870222_respect-for-human-life_en.html

Now, in regard to death, the Church can clearly teach the moral truth that euthanasia is wrong - something science cannot tell us. But what observation or reasoning can the Church make regarding death? What is death exactly? As I pointed out above, it is not at all the physical reverse of creating life for we do not regress back to two separate cells (wherein the person is clearly obliterated). Were it so, your point (that I quoted at the beginning of this post) would be correct, but it is not.

My understanding is that the soul leaves the body at the moment of death - when the body is no longer capable of being animated. But what physical signs can tell us when that is? Science needs to do its best to recognise that condition.

Arguing that life begins from a DNA basis is rather relative. How important is DNA before it enfolds into organs (especially the brain and heart working together)? Science can’t say for sure when life begins. It **can **say that certainly a human is that which has certain functions of organs. Now the Church has said that the opinion among certain scientists that life begins at conception is correct. If the Church could not say when life began, it could not make moral decisions about the gray areas. So its authority must provide the light into that area. I see no difference between this ability and the ability to say when death occurs. A dead body is treated differently than a live person in many ways. So I think Pius XII was wrong in that Address.

As for why organ transplants seem against natural law to me, is it not obvious that God gave each person their own body? To take someone’s else’s organs is to reject the natural process of one’s own body. To play Dr. Frankenstein is to play God.

If that is not a natural law argument, I don’t know what is…:shrug:

The Church observes there is no grey area about the status of the fertilised ovum. The result is not the mother nor the father… The doubt pertains to ensoulment, but the unchangeable teaching concerning abortion is not dependent on ensoulment.

I see no difference between this ability and the ability to say when death occurs. A dead body is treated differently than a live person in many ways. So I think Pius XII was wrong in that Address.

I explained the logic error in transferring capacity from one thing to a different thing. There is truly a grey area in recognising death by its nature, however the Church has no teaching about when in the process of dying death occurs, or disposal of the body may occur, and so forth. Hence there is no logical need for it to hold any position on what precise bodily conditions constitute death. It merely says “after death”, certain things can be done, and before death, they may not. It relies on science to judge when is death. Regrettably, there appear to be some instances occurring when the boundary is being pushed by doctors on the basis that death is “inevitable”…

As for why organ transplants seem against natural law to me, is it not obvious that God gave each person their own body? To take someone’s else’s organs is to reject the natural process of one’s own body. To play Dr. Frankenstein is to play God.

If that is not a natural law argument, I don’t know what is…:shrug:

Your reasoning is not one from natural law.

Care for the dead is different than respecting the body as still alive. Therefore the Church can and should say when death occurs. With abortion She has said when ensoulment happens. If its not human yet, its not abortion because abortion means murder.

I don’t see why an infertile couple must always complete ciotus with the husband fully penetrated, but its okay to have an organ trade and put them in bodies in which God did not put them

You are welcome to all those opinions.

Can you provide a reference to where the Church speaks of the moment of ensoulment. I am unaware of any.

Hasn’t She taught us that morning after pills are murder? That is a sufficient reference

No, it’s not.

I’m not understanding you.

Murder can only be done to someone who has a soul. The morning after is right after conception. So the teaching on this definitely implies that the fertilized egg has a soul “the morning after”. I don’t believe that Church can teach on a subject like this with only fallible authority. It is of such intimate important that it must be infallible even if simply state in an encyclical. When people lump contraception into the “culture of death”, I feel like they are weakening our case on this. Anyway, the new commercials for the morning after pill have a slogan: “for the perfectly imperfect”. They just don’t want to be bothered with what they deem are technicalities. We Catholics are more sensitive

“The Magisterium has not expressly committed itself to an affirmation of a philosophical nature” John Paul II approved. vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19870222_respect-for-human-life_en.html

What does that mean?

See note 19 of this document:
vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19741118_declaration-abortion_en.html

That document is referenced by the one you quote. Note it confirms that the Church does not teach the moment of ensoulment (which is the philosophical question) and that that has no bearing on the teaching regarding abortion.

Wow, I can’t believe John Paul II approved that. If science can’t say when someone is fully human, then surely philosophy can’t add anything. So what’s the big deal about abortion in the first few months then?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.