American Muslims who view negative events as punishment from God are more likely to think organ donations are unethical, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago’s Program on Medicine and Religion.
The study, published in the journal Transplantation, highlights the complex relationship between attitudes toward organ donation and the Islamic faith. Prior research has suggested that Muslims are less likely than other religious people to believe that organ donation is an ethical choice.
This study, however, found that overall levels of religiosity among American Muslims did not affect attitudes toward organ donation — only in the subgroup who believe negative experiences are punishments from God.
“We need to unpack the theology and understand why certain people believe that God is punishing them and how that impacts their health behaviors,” said study author Aasim Padela, M.D., director of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine at the University of Chicago.
“The medical community can’t do that alone. The Muslim religious community has to be involved and work with researchers and clinicians to explore and intervene upon these ideas,” he said. “As we see in this study, it affects organ donation attitudes and may impact other health behaviors.”
For the study, a group of 97 Muslims answered questions about their religious beliefs and their opinions about organ donation after death. Of this group, only race and ethnicity were linked to organ-donation attitudes: Arab Americans were more likely to believe that organ donation is justified compared to South Asian or African American Muslims.
Gender, country of origin, duration of residency in the United States, educational level, and health insurance status did not affect attitudes.
Participants who had higher levels of negative religious coping — the belief that negative experiences, such as illness, are punishment from God — were much less likely to view organ donation as ethical.
Padela said that because there are so many people on the waiting list for organ donations in the United States, balancing this urgent medical need with deeply held religious beliefs will require more open and honest discussion of the issues within the Muslim community.
“Some Islamic scholars hold that organ donation after death is not permissible, and ethically, we have to be honest about this with patients and their relatives,” Padela said.
“We have to create a culture of informed choice and have respectful conversations in the open, within mosques, community venues, and the hospital. An open and nonjudgmental atmosphere will allow us to navigate the complex issues around religious beliefs, interpretations, and organ donation.”
Source: University of Chicago