Sydney Cardinal George Pell has praised organ donation as a "noble act" of "generous solidarity" but condemned organ sales as "morally unacceptabl."
The Catholic Weekly reports Cardinal Pell quoted Pope John Paul II warning that "any procedure which tends to commercialise human organs or to consider them as items of exchange or trade must be considered morally unacceptable."
Cardinal Pell was commenting on a statement by Canberra nephrologist Dr Gavin Carney that young, healthy people should be allowed to sell their kidneys for $50,000 to the Federal Government, which could then give them to sick patients who now must wait years for a transplant or travel to Third World countries to buy the organs.
Selling or buying organs is illegal in Australia, carrying a penalty of six months' jail and/or a fine of $4,400.
However, Dr Carney told the Sydney Morning Herald that changing the law would save thousands of lives and billions of dollars in care for sick patients left languishing on waiting lists for up to 10 years.
More than 1,800 people are waiting for a kidney transplant in Australia, but only 343 kidneys were donated last year, forcing some to travel to countries such as Pakistan and India to buy organs for up to $30,000 on the black market.
Cardinal Pell said: "As Catholics we know that human life is precious and that we are called to treat all persons with equal dignity and respect.
"One of the ways in which we can witness to this is through organ donation. Where persons donate an organ, such as a kidney, to save the life of another and where the risks associated are proportionate to the good that is sought for the organ recipient, it is a morally commendable act.
"Organ donation after death is a similarly noble act which the Catechism terms ‘an expression of generous solidarity'."
He added: "However, it is not morally obligatory to donate and consent from a donor or his or her proxy is essential.
"Before becoming Pope, the then Cardinal Ratzinger declared that he was himself an organ donor and that he had registered as such. He saw it as simply 'an act of love'."
Donating organs is ‘noble', selling them ‘unacceptable' (Catholic Weekly, 1/6/08)