Who Owns Your Body When You Die?

Who Owns Your Body When You Die?

One of the medical issues of our day is the shortage of organs for transplant. Many people die while waiting for a heart, kidney, or liver, and the problem of finding organ donors is complicated. That leads to the question of who owns your body when you die?

In the United States, there are data banks for almost every organ in our bodies. If someone needs a kidney, their surgeon can go to the kidney bank and see how many people in the database have the blood type and traits to be a donor. Often kidneys are supplied by living donors, so the kidney is moved from one person to another, with both the donor and the one receiving the new organ in the same operating room. Of course, that is not possible for many organs such as hearts.

The government of Switzerland is considering a bill that would make the state the receptor of everyone when they die unless the person officially opts out. When a person dies, their organs will become a “public asset” so doctors could harvest them for transplant to alleviate the shortage. The Swiss medical establishment says that between 50 and 100 patients die in Switzerland every year because of the lack of organs for transplant.

This proposed law brings up all kinds of issues and gives a whole new dimension to the relationship between the state and the individual. Who owns your body when you die? Many times a dying person is in a coma or is pronounced brain dead. Taking their organs would certainly be a form of euthanasia. What about the person who is terminal with cancer but has organs that are unaffected by the disease?

The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:50, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven.” That same chapter tells us that we will all be changed (verse 52). The natural body is not sacred. It is the dwelling place of God’s Spirit when we are alive (1 Corinthians 3:16), and our soul is housed in it. But Genesis tells us that our body is “dust to dust.”

The body without the spirit is dead (James 2:26). I had that vividly pointed out to me as I stood beside my wife’s bed when she died. The body was lifeless, cold, and unresponsive. My wife Phyllis was gone and what was left was the house in which her spirit had lived.

The issue here is how much control the state should have over our being. Who owns your body when you die? In Switzerland, at least, the state may be considered the master of our existence, even in death.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The Week, May 21, 2021 page 16.