Gyasi Ross: Does organ and blood donation fit into our beliefs?

Gyasi Ross. Photo from Cut Bank Creek Press

Gyasi Ross asks readers whether organ and blood donation fits into their traditional belief systems:
I’ve heard Native people who believe that you must enter the afterlife whole and intact—the parts of you that are not your own will not be allowed to enter. This would be a considerable disincentive to giving or receiving any body parts that aren’t your own—I don’t want to be missing my kidney in the afterlife!!! But I also want my blood in the afterlife…and if I received a blood transfusion or someone was kind enough to save my life by giving me a kidney …well then, that’s cool for now, but there’s a problem a little bit later, right? I couldn’t hold my pee too good without a damn kidney.

And that gets messy. Yech.

In either event…my point is not to dissect all of the individual Native beliefs—there are religions that refuse medical service entirely and/or handle snakes to show their faith. There’s a reason why these are beliefs and not science—I respect both and think both have a place in our lives.

At this exact moment, I’m voting for “no” on the “organ donor” question, although I reserve the right to change my mind in the future. It’s a beautiful sentiment—service, helping someone out and hoping they would do the same for their fellow human being. PLUS, if someone in my family needed an organ, I’d DEFINITELY want someone to donate to them if they could. Still, after seeing the trauma/difficulty for my friend’s family during that time, I’m not exactly objective about the process right now—I wouldn’t want anyone feeling guilty. Guilty consciences and/or unclear instructions after a loved one passes sucks and most Natives die intestate or without a will.

Get the Story:
Gyasi Ross: All About Indian Blood (and Kidneys, and Hearts): Organ Donation and Native People (Indian Country Today 4/2)

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