Is donating one's body or body parts to science considered moral or immoral?

Hey everyone. Would it be moral or immoral to donate one’s body or body parts to science after one has died?

I think it would be moral because it could help in the future sabout health care and things like that.


My dad’s cousin always wanted to donate her body to science when she died…in fact, it was in her will for quite a few years. She was a Christian woman and active in her church. However, when she died a few years ago in her late 80s, her pastor told us that her body would not be donated to science after all. He said that they are very disrespectful with the bodies nowadays and my dad’s cousin would not want that. I don’t know if they discussed it while she was in the hospital or what. She didn’t have any brothers or sisters–just an executor. That’s about all I know (which isn’t much–sorry.)

Thank you everyone for your replies. If anyone knows what the Catholic Church teaches on this issue, I’d appreciate the information.

According to the Catechism, it is fine, provided the body is treated with respect:
Respect for the dead

2299 The dying should be given attention and care to help them live their last moments in dignity and peace. They will be helped by the prayer of their relatives, who must see to it that the sick receive at the proper time the sacraments that prepare them to meet the living God.

2300 The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection. The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy; it honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit.

2301 Autopsies can be morally permitted for legal inquests or scientific research. The free gift of organs after death is legitimate and can be meritorious.
The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.

As Byrellos points out body donation for scientific study is specifically permitted.
I’m at the point I’m starting to looking to final plans. There is a teaching hospital near me that takes body donations.
The only hang-up (to me) is that it may take up to 24 months for the ashes to be returned to the family.

You might want to find a hospital near you and find out about their program.
The one here sounds good – they have spaces reserved for unclaimed/indigent at both public and diocesan cemeteries.

How do YOU feel about it?
Do you feel or think it is moral or immoral?

Without knowing what the church may teach on the issue…do you think it is right or wrong or good or bad to help a fellow human being stay alive or see with eyes using your body parts that you won’t be using anymore, that would otherwise be buried in the earth and turn to dust?


This discussion reminds me of a slightly irreverent folk song, Please Don’t Bury Me, by John Prine:
YouTube: Please Don’t Bury Me, by John Prine
He sings about giving his eyes to the blind, his ears to the deaf, …

So far, so good, but then he sings:

… “Venus de Milo can have my arms,”
… “Sell my heart to the junkman” (referring to another great song “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman,” by The Basin Street Boys)
… Give my feet to the footloose
…Give my knees to the needy :slight_smile:

That song always comes to mind when I think about organ donation.

In 1956 Pope Pius XII declared, “The public must be educated. It must be explained with intelligence and respect that to consent explicitly or tacitly to serious damage to the integrity of the corpse in the interest of those who are suffering, is no violation of the reverence due to the dead."

So long as the remains are treated with dignity and care, donation of a whole body or body parts, whether for transplantation or scientific research to help the living, are a commendable gift.

The USCCB has echoed this in their document, Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. See Part Five, Issues in Care for the Seriously Ill and Dying, paragraph 63. Except for the use of the remains of aborted babies, “Catholic health care institutions should encourage and provide the means whereby those who wish to do so may arrange for the donation of their organs and bodily tissue, for ethically legitimate purposes, so that they may be used for donation and research after death.”

It’s an act of charity that can save lives.

If donating blood, which is a body part, is ok (I assume it is because Catholic Churches and schools regularly have blood drives and Catholics are permitted to receive transfusions) then it would seem that donating body parts is morally permissible as well.

Otherwise the Church would forbid organ transplants, because it would not be moral to receive an organ if it was obtained through immoral means.

Likewise with cadavers for medical research, if we are allowed to benefit from Dr’s being trained with cadavers, then it seems that we should be allowed to participate.

I realize that this does not always follow, but the line of reasoning and logic is there.

Interesting! I was not aware of this! This is precisely the type of information I was looking for by the way. Something from the Catechism of the Catholic Church like this is excellent and definitely answers my questions! Thank you! :thumbsup:

I’d donate my organs, but not my body, theres gotta be something to bury in the coffin.

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