Modern and Youth Issues

What is the Sikh attitude towards organ donation?

Sikh philosophy and belief place a great deal of importance on generosity and putting others before oneself. Sikhism also stresses noble deeds, and one would be hard-pressed to identify a more noble act than organ donation.

Sikhs generally accept brain death as an indication of the departure of life from a body. The body is the shell and home for the soul. When the soul departs from the body, the body is useless.

ਜੇ ਮਿਰਤਕ ਕਉ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਚੜਾਵੈ ॥ ਉਸ ਤੇ ਕਹਹੁ ਕਵਨ ਫਲ ਪਾਵੈ ॥
ਜੇ ਮਿਰਤਕ ਕਉ ਬਿਸਟਾ ਮਾਹਿ ਰੁਲਾਈ ॥ ਤਾਂ ਮਿਰਤਕ ਕਾ ਕਿਆ ਘਟਿ ਜਾਈ ॥੩॥
“If a corpse is anointed with sandalwood oil, what good does it do?
If a corpse is rolled in manure, what does it lose from this? ||3||”
(Ang 1160)

The Sikh religion teaches that life continues after death in the soul, and not the physical body. The last act of giving and helping others through organ donation is both consistent with and in the spirit of Sikh teachings.

Discussing organ donation with family and friends is a responsible and thoughtful act. As well, signing an organ donor card and, in the rare circumstance where a person is left brain-dead and their organs are fit for giving, donation itself are acts motivated by compassion and a sense of responsibility. In fact, the integrity of the body argument is largely a red herring: A person who has had a cancerous kidney removed, or a leg amputated because of diabetes is no less whole than one who donates their vital organs to save a life.