Religious limits on reproductive organ donationWritten by Mohammad Mustaqim Malek
In March 2018, a medical team at the Johns Hopkins University in the United States performed the first total penile and scrotum transplant in the world.
Reproductive organ donation is expected to solve sexual and fertility problems. However, it also raises some ethical and moral concerns, especially from the perspective of certain religions and cultures.
Islam, for instance, has a firm stance when it concerns genital matters and organ donations in general.
Organ donation is a controversial topic in the Islamic fraternity.
There are two types of organ donation: Donation from living individuals, and donation from the dead.
Donations from living individuals are limited to certain types of organs such as parts of the liver and one of the kidneys.
In Malaysia, this type of donation only involves close relatives.
Donations from dead donors involve more diverse types of organs and tissues including the heart, skin and heart valves.
Both types of donations are permissible based on the principle of removing harms because donating organs or parts of organs saves the life of a person who is suffering from end-stage organ failure.
Indeed, protecting life is important as it is one of the higher objectives of the shari‘ah. For example, in the case of a person suffering from liver failure, donating part of the liver may save him.
Organ donations are performed with the intention of saving lives. Such an intention justifies the permissibility of organ donations.
The question arises as to whether reproductive organ donation holds the same argument.
The Islamic perspective on reproductive organ donation must be looked at from various angles.
Firstly, it must be noted that Islam puts great emphasis on protecting and preserving lineage.
Organs such as ovaries and testicles contain genetic information from the donor, thus transplanting it to the recipient leads to confusion regarding the lineage of offspring.
The confusion of lineage complicates a number of matters including inheritance, marriage and guardianship.
Secondly, donating genitals such as the penis is strictly prohibited because it is considered as changing the creation of God.
Changing the creation of God in this sense is related to the act of castrating the genital of the donor in order to be transplanted to the recipient. Castrating genitals is prohibited by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Furthermore, in the context of donation, it causes permanent damage to the donor which violates one of the Islamic conditions in permitting organ donation.
Reproductive organ donations does not constitute a necessity.
Although it is performed with the aim of producing offspring, it is not a life-saving treatment.
Additionally, producing offspring is a form of supplementary (takmiliyyah) rather than a necessity (daruriyyah).
Indeed, Islam draws a clear line between what is considered necessary and what is not.
Published in: New Straits Times, Thursday 16 January 2020