The Holy Father praised the generosity involved in the donation of organs or tissues and condemned the abuses in the transplant and trafficking of organs as he addressed an international congress on organ donation in Rome today.
Pope Benedict began his address to the conference entitled, “A Gift for Life. Considerations on Organ Donation.” by applauding the great advances of medical science in the realm of issue and organ transplants. Though these measures give hope to people who are suffering, he lamented the problem of a limited availability of organs, as evidenced “in the long waiting lists of many sick people whose only hopes of survival are linked to a minimal supply which in no way corresponds to effective need."
Despite the fact that the supply of organs is limited, the Pontiff emphasized that people can only donate, “if the health and identity of the individual are never put at serious risk, and always for morally-valid and proportional reasons. Any logic of buying and selling of organs, or the adoption of discriminatory or utilitarian criteria ... is morally unacceptable,” he stressed.
The Pope went on to address abuses in the transplant plant of organs and tissues such as organ trafficking, which often affect innocent people such as children. These abuses, he said, “must find the scientific and medical community united in a joint refusal. These are unacceptable practices which must be condemned as abominable.”
Pope Benedict also strongly criticized the idea of creating human embryos for organ harvesting. “The same ethical principle must be reiterated when it is suggested that human embryos be created and destroyed for therapeutic purposes. The very idea of considering the embryo as 'therapeutic material' contradicts the cultural, civil and ethical foundations upon which the dignity of the person rests."
The Holy Father then spoke about the necessity of informed consent being “a precondition of freedom,” ensuring "that transplants have the nature of a gift and are not interpreted as acts of coercion or exploitation."
He then recalled the dignity of a dead persons reminding the congress that "vital organs must not be removed save from a dead body, which also has a dignity that must be respected. Over recent years science has made further progress in ascertaining the death of a patient. ... In an area such as this, there must be no suspicion of arbitrariness, and where certainty has not been reached the principle of precaution must prevail."
The Pope also spoke to organ recipients saying that they “should be aware of the value” of the donation. “They are recipients of a gift that goes beyond its therapeutic benefit. What they receive, in fact, ... [it] is a testimony of love, and this must arouse an equally generous response so as to enhance the culture of giving and gratuity."
Transplants, "require all sides to invest every possible effort in formation and information, so as increasingly to awaken consciences to a problem that directly affects the lives of so many people,” the Holy Father concluded. ‘It is important, then, to avoid prejudices and misunderstandings, to overcome diffidence and fear replacing them with certainties and guarantees, so as to create in all people an ever- greater awareness of the great gift of life."