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MIND Institute Brain Endowment for Autism Research Sciences<sup>®</sup>

MIND Institute Brain Endowment for Autism Research Sciences®

More on religion and culture

Jehovah's Witnesses

Donation: Individual decision

Prevalence: Congo, Mexico, Brazil, etc.

Discussion: According to the Watch Tower Society, which is the legal corporation for the religion, Jehovah's Witnesses do not encourage organ or tissue donation. However, they do believe it is a matter of individual choice and do not oppose donating or receiving organs.


Donation: Acceptable

Prevalence: Brazil, Australia, Canada, China, Chile, Congo, Germany, Indonesia, Nigeria, Peru, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States.

Discussion: Protestant Christianity is very diverse in their traditions and does not rely on the teachings of a single authority figure. However, most denominations under Protestantism approve and encourage organ and tissue donations. They also stress respect for the individual conscience and a person's right to make decisions regarding his or her own body.

The Church of Christian Scientist

Donation: Individual decision

Prevalence: Widespread

Discussion: The Church of Christian Scientist takes no specific position regarding organ and tissue donations. However, most Christian Scientists rely on spiritual rather than medical means for healing. Many feel that they can contribute to the health of society and their loved ones in other ways than through organ or tissue donation.


Donation: Individual choice

Prevalence: United States, Italy, South Africa, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, etc.

Discussion: Scientologists are allowed to make their own decisions regarding tissue donation. However, they also believe that there could be spiritual consequences of donating tissue.


Donation:  Special circumstances

Prevalence: United States, Canada, etc.

Discussion: The Amish are reluctant to donate tissue, but will agree to do so under special circumstances. John Holster, authority on Amish religion and Professor of Anthropology at Temple University in Philadelphia, says in his book, Amish Society, “The Amish believe that since God created the human body, it is God who heals it.”

However, there is nothing in the Amish understanding of the Bible that forbids the use of modern medical services, including surgery, hospitalization, blood transfusions, etc.

Baha’i Faith

Donation: Acceptable

Prevalence: Widespread

Discussion: There is nothing in the Baha’i teaching that forbids donation. The guardian of the Baha’i faith stated, “…it seems a noble thing to do.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Donation: Individual decision

Prevalence: United States, Mexico, Brazil, etc.

Discussion: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that the decision to donate is an individual choice made in conjunction with family, medical personnel, and prayer. Jerry Cahill, director of Public Affairs for the Mormon Church, says, “The Church does not interpose any objection to an individual decision in favor of organ and tissue donation.”


Donation: Generally opposed

Prevalence: Spain, Romania, Turkey, France, etc.

Discussion: Gypsies believe that for an entire year after a person dies, the soul will retrace its steps. In order to do this, all of the parts of the body must be intact for the soul to maintain its true physical form.

Lutheran Church

Donation: Individual choice

Prevalence: United States, Sweden, Indonesia, Tanzania, Ethiopia, etc.

Discussion: The Lutheran Church does not oppose tissue donation, and believes that the decision to donate one’s tissues should be left up to the individual.


Donation: Unacceptable

Prevalence: Japan

Discussion: According to the Shinto culture, the dead body is considered to be impure and dangerous. E. Namihira in the article, Shinto Concept Concerning the Dead Human Body, says, “In folk belief context, injuring a dead body is a serious crime…To this day, it is difficult to obtain consent from bereaved families for organ donation…the Japanese regard it in the sense of injuring a dead body.”

Shinto families are often cautious of not injuring the “itia,” which is the relationship between the dead person and the bereaved. For this reason, organ donation is often unacceptable to the Shinto culture and religion.

The Brain Endowment for Autism Research Sciences (BEARS) Program ® is unable to include perspectives from all faiths and cultures. For those needing additional religious or cultural guidance, it may be helpful to discuss any questions and concerns with your own rabbis, priests, ministers, spiritual counselors, family members, and relatives. While they may not have all the answers you are looking for, they will undoubtedly recognize and support your desire to contribute to an important cause.