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Pope says organ transplants must "guarantee respect for life and for the human person"

Yesterday the Vatican released a Letter from Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences supporting the practice of transplanting organs from the deceased.

In the letter, the Holy Father notes that the academy "has chosen to dedicate this session of the Study Group - as on two earlier occasions during the 1980s - to a theme of particular complexity and importance: that of the 'signs of death', in the context of the practice of transplanting organs from deceased persons."

He speaks of the Church's "constant and informed interest in the development of the surgical practice of organ transplant, intended to save human lives from imminent death and to allow the sick to continue living for a further period of years."

The Pope said that there must be "ongoing research on the technical-scientific level" by those who perform transplants and "a constant dialogue with experts in anthropological and ethical disciplines, so as to guarantee respect for life and for the human person."

He turns to the question of "'the signs of death' on the basis of which a person's clinical death can be established with moral certainty, in order to proceed with the removal of organs for transplant. Within the horizon of Christian anthropology, it is well known that the moment of death for each person consists in the definitive loss of the constitutive unity of body and spirit."

The Holy Father assured academy members that the Holy See will aid the group's research, "especially the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

Pope says organ transplants must "guarantee respect for life and for the human person" (Catholic News Agency 4/2/05)

Organ donation and the definition of death (Women for Faith and Family/St Louis Review May 2003)
Organ Donation: A Catholic Perspective (Catholic Medical Quarterly/UK Catholic Doctors)
Organ Donation Network (Red Cross NSW/ACT)
LifeGift - Victorian Organ Donation Service
Australia and New Zealand Organ Donation Registry

Papal letter to academy on organ transplants (Vatican Information Service 4/2/05)
Raiding the piggy bank for organs (New Zealand Herald 1/2/05)
Organ donors low despite Hookes' death (The Age 5/9/04)
Pope Gives Transplant Guidelines (Associated Press 28/8/00)

4 Feb 2005