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Paul Ambrogio wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Is it okay to donate the body to science?
  • What does the Church teach on this?

Paul

  { Can I donate my body to science and what does the Church teach on this? }

Bob replied:

Dear friend:

You said:

  • Is it okay to donate the body to science?

It is fine to donate your body to science, assuming, of course, you plan on being dead first.

That being said, in times past, the Church did have some reservations about cremation and other activity that interrupted the natural decay process. This was simply because it looked forward to the resurrection of our bodies and didn't want to violate the "nature" of that resurrection.
The theological arguments were mostly around whether God needed to use the same "matter"
of the individual's body for the bodily resurrection that we all will experience in Christ.

If this seems strange, consider that Christ was raised "bodily" from the tomb.

  • Did God need to use that particular matter for Christ's resurrection?

Whether he needed to or not, doesn't change the fact that he did use it. Since Christ is the prototype of our resurrection, the Church wanted to keep intact the body much like His was.

Today, however, our emphasis is on the "transformative" aspects of the resurrection. (We are not merely "resuscitated" but transformed to a higher level of life. This means that while we recognize that we will be raised "bodily", how God gets that accomplished, and what "matter" he uses are quite secondary to the point that He will do it.  No dissemination of ashes or body parts to the four corners of the earth could prevent him from accomplishing His will and promises.

So, let someone have a heart, an eye, or whatever, and let a medical student learn about the body. It's all good, provided it is in the interest of good and not unethical, medical practices, which unfortunately are growing in our times. Good luck.

You said:

  • What does the Church teach on this?

From the Catechism:

Respect for the person and scientific research

2292 Scientific, medical, or psychological experiments on human individuals or groups can contribute to healing the sick and the advancement of public health.

2293 Basic scientific research, as well as applied research, is a significant expression of man's dominion over creation. Science and technology are precious resources when placed at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all. By themselves however they cannot disclose the meaning of existence and of human progress. Science and technology are ordered to man, from whom they take their origin and development; hence they find in the person and in his moral values both evidence of their purpose and awareness of their limits.

2294 It is an illusion to claim moral neutrality in scientific research and its applications. On the other hand, guiding principles cannot be inferred from simple technical efficiency, or from the usefulness accruing to some at the expense of others or, even worse, from prevailing ideologies. Science and technology by their very nature require unconditional respect for fundamental moral criteria. They must be at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, of his true and integral good, in conformity with the plan and the will of God.

2295 Research or experimentation on the human being cannot legitimate acts that are in themselves contrary to the dignity of persons and to the moral law. The subjects' potential consent does not justify such acts. Experimentation on human beings is not morally legitimate if it exposes the subject's life or physical and psychological integrity to disproportionate or avoidable risks. Experimentation on human beings does not conform to the dignity of the person if it takes place without the informed consent of the subject or those who legitimately speak for him.

2296 Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good sought for the recipient. Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as a expression of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent. Moreover, it is not morally admissible to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons.

 

Peace,

Bob K.

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