Christian Attitude to Organ Transplant and Genetic Engineering
Purpose: To appreciate Christian attitude towards Organ Transplant and Genetic Engineering.
Passages: Gal. 6:10; Jas. 2:14
17; 1 Cor. 15:51
53; Ps. 127:3; 139:13
16; Jer. 1:5; Col. 3:17
In the past 20 years or so, organ transplant had become commonplace. The kidney is the organ most
frequently transplanted and the number of transplants is limited only by the deficiency of "donors". In
Singapore, most donors are clos
e relatives of the person suffering from incurable kidney disease, and
donate one of their two kidneys to their loved ones. Previously, healthy people who have had a severe
accident and who are certified "brain dead" will have their kidneys removed to be
given to two people,
unless they have within their lifetime chosen to opt out in writing to this scheme. If they have not opted
out, other organs may also be transplanted e.g. the heart, liver, eyes, pancreas (for diabetics); to people
who need these orga
There are very few Christians who have objected to organ transplant. There might be some worries about
the idea of being "brain dead" when the heart is still beating in an accident victim (usually with severe
injuries to the head).
There are also wo
rries about the sale of organs. This is because there are too few organs available for
organ transplant. In the case of kidneys, even though we have two kidneys, there is a risk involved and not
many people would donate to a stranger. When it comes to t
he eyes and the heart, understandably, donors
are harder to come by! There is therefore a market for kidney transplant (like blood donations in some
countries). This is considered unethical and illegal in Britain, USA, and many other countries. Some
ntries do not have such laws and many sick people go there to buy kidneys. The main objection is that
the 'donor' often does not know the risk involved and receives only a very small proportion of the fee given
(the rest goes to the middle man).
The issue here is more complicated. "Twenty years ago, mankind learned how to have sex without babies
with the contraceptive pill. Today with 'test tube babies', we have learned how to have babies without
sex". With 'genetic engineering',
in ten years time, we should be able to have babies with the 'right' sex,
and other characteristics e.g. high IQ, tall, etc.
Mankind has always changed the characteristics of plants and animals in his control. We can see this with
the rice grown in some
they have a much shorter growing season and thus the same land can
grow three crops a year. The rice was specially 'engineered' by selection over many years to have this
characteristic. Similarly with animals. Jacob (Gen. 30) was the first
to select out the better ones in the
flock. These selections of desirable characteristics were the first crude attempts at genetic engineering.
Today, biomedical science has made it much more refined. Through 'genetic engineering', there is now an
that does not make people cry. We eat guavas without seeds, and may soon enjoy durians without
thorns. In Australia, a colony of pigs have had extra genes put in, and they have extra growth hormone.
These pigs grow three times as fast and can be sold i
n one year while normal pigs take three years to reach
the same size.
This ability to directly control some genes will be available for human beings in about 10 years. Now, it is
not ready except for a few very rare diseases and the first treatments by g
enetic engineering were carried
out in USA in November 1990
some newborn babies who lacked an essential hormone had special genes
put into their bloodstream and thus could survive. But in ten years or so, in theory, there should be the
ability to change
many other genes, directly. We could probably in another ten years, select the sex, IQ,
colour of eyes and hair, of a baby.
Christians are divided in their reaction to these changes:
Some reject this part of Babel. Man has come closer to the realms wh
ich should not be touched
because these are part of God's province. We are interfering with God's prerogative of creation when
we deal with genetic engineering. We could unleash evil as never seen before if we start interfering in
this way. Christian do
ctors and scientists should not work in these areas (cf. should not be in
armaments industry, or nuclear weapons industry).
Some do not see any difference in genetic engineering other than one of degree from selection by
other less direct means of better
characteristics. Man is told to oversee God's creation and this is part
of making creation better, and overcoming the effects of sin. It is used mainly to good ends, to heal
and to cure, and if some people abuse it, this does not mean Christians should a
Discuss the differences between engineering the genes of onions and the genes of man. Can both be
wrong, or only one?
Glossary of terms
a hereditary portion of our make
up we get from our parents.
the total number of g
enes in an individual; human, animal or plant.
the approximately 3 billion bits of the genome that constitute each human
Genomic sequencing of man
the identification and delineation of the total individual genetic make
one of the 46 genetic structures in each cell of a human being.
two or more individuals with identical genes, e.g. identical twins.
Issues confronting Christians today, IVP, John Stott.