Although there is no specific mention of ‘organ donation’, within Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the guiding principles outlined are quite clear for allowing, and in fact encouraging Sikhs to donate their organs.
Sikhism is based on the principle of Compassion and promotes “Sarbat Da Bhalla”, which means “common good for all”. Such utilitarian approach encourages organ donation. More specifically, a hymn composed by Guru Arjan Dev Ji, 5th Guru of the Sikhs and recorded in Sukhmani Sahib within Guru Granth Sahib highlights:
“False is the body which does not do any good to others” (p.269)
Sikh code of conduct, ‘Rehat Maryada’, forbids Baptised Sikhs to alter their physical appearance from that of a Saabat Surat (Full form) Sikh. Sikhs accept and endorse the natural form that God has gifted them. Certain body parts however are commonly removed or altered in specific circumstances. For instance; removing overgrown nails, which are considered dead, removal of diseased or dead organs, which may harm the rest of the body (e.g. infective appendicitis, which may cause severe generalised sepsis/infection and cause the rest of the being to die). Babies born with congenital abnormalities such as cleft palate or Talipes, which may be corrected with human intervention to return the body to form and function for an individual to join and autonomously contribute to society is also allowable according to Sikh principles.
Sikh patients sometimes face uncertainty around removal of chest hair, when attempting to perform an ECG (a heart trace), to elicit whether they have certain electrical changes related to a suspected heart attack. Again, where the action is intended for the common good of the being (‘Sarbat da bhalla’), this is not forbidden according to Sikh principles.
Within Sikh code of conduct, or holy scriptures that Sikhs follow, there is no specific forbiddance of removing viable organs for the purpose of donating them for the benefit of a fellow being. Similarly, there are no religious objections to the reception of donated organs to improve quality or longevity of a Sikh’s life.
SDDA feel that this form of Sewa (‘selfless service’) , where a Sikh may serve the needs of others, whilst remaining fully functioning in life, and serving needs of others after death, is something the Sikh community can be proud of.
Here at UK SDDA, we are proud to have run initiatives to encourage Sikhs to register on the organ donor register, and indeed many of our members are formally registered to donate organs.