Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Buddhists and organ donation

On 7th July I was visited by Andrea Adams, Secretary of the Welsh Government Faith Communities Forum, and her associate Jo Glenn.  They were visiting me because I am currently  Chairperson of the Buddhist Council of Wales.  Andrea Adams is visiting representatives of all the faiths who are part of the Assembly's Faith Communities Forum, as part of her orientation to her new rôle as Secretary.
            Andrea and Jo asked many interesting questions and I thought they would make an interest series of posts.  They clearly had researched the principles of Buddhism and were interested to find out about my thoughts on various issues.  I was very conscious of my responsibility as Chairperson of the Buddhist Council of Wales, to attempt to answer the questions with consideration of the broad spectrum of Buddhism in Wales.  The topics discussed—presented over the next few posts—appear in no particular order.

Buddhists and organ donation:
This is a serious and pertinent issue.  I believe that the Welsh Assembly Government are considering changing the law so that organ donation becomes an assumed opt in by default – that is it will become necessity to carry a card to state that if you are not willing to donate organs.
          I stated that I believed that many Buddhist would regard organ donation as the ultimate act of generosity and that in general terms it would present no problem in the Buddhist community.
          I did add however, that because a tenet of Buddhism is rebirth, the state of mind of the practitioner at death—and possibly immediately after death—was very important.  It is considered important to die with a peaceful and quiet mind.   Some Buddhists believe that the body should be left quietly for a period of time after having been declared medically dead, as consciousness may not immediately lose connection with the body.  In view of this a Buddhist's attitude to organ donation may depend on the timing – on how immediately after death organs would need to be harvested.  Some may feel that there may be the possibility that there remains an awareness of what is happening to the body for a while after death, so that if organs are removed immediately it could be distressing to the mind-stream of the deceased.
          Taking these consideration into account I said that consequently I felt that the decision about organ donation had to be individual and personal.

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