Medical Ethics and Religions

“Giving in the various Religions”

Gift and Voluntary Help:    Jean-François MATTEI (President of the Red Cross of France)
By its very nature, a gift is freely given when it is not remunerated although this would be possible|
he gift can be material (money, some good)

  • spiritual (a word, life), and thus it can go as far as the gift of self;
  • bodily (all or part of the body), which raises ethical questions.

A gift has four characteristics:

  • it is individual, from one person to another person;
  • it is pertinent, adapted to the needs of the one receiving it;
  • it is spontaneous, not based on merit (or retribution or reward);
  • it is freely given, authentic, disinterested.
  1.  This idea of gift is more and more in contradiction to the facts of daily life. E.g. the gift of organs: the body is not a property, it cannot be made available to possible buyers.
  2. The gift is necessary for life in a society. E.g. the gift of blood: it is freely given, but society pays those who work in that area.
  3. Motivations: according to A. Comte, altruism is innate; nevertheless, individualism triumphs… But there is also an existential altruism of compassion: helping the other gives one the comforting impression of being useful for something.
  4. Altruism as giving value: the person who gives is suspect; however, true altruism does exist. Denying that the other can love is a proof of one’s own selfishness.

Generosity resembles love.
One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving.
The less love there is, the more generosity is necessary.
Love cannot be commanded, but generosity can. That is why generosity is a duty.

As you can imagine, these few notes cannot give you all the wealth and depth of J.F. Mattei’s talk. But I’m passing them on to you as a possible basis for reflection.
As to the other talks, I will only mention them.

The Buddhist point of view was presented by Julien CLAYET-MAREL (Ph.D. in law).

The presentation of the Jewish point of view was entitled “Giving and/or receiving” and was given by Rabbi Lionel DRAY. It was quite legalistic…
One interesting detail on donating organs: you can give blood and bone marrow because they grow back, and one kidney because it is possible to live with only one kidney. The rest is forbidden, for one must be able to arrive in heaven complete…

The Catholic point of view was presented by Geneviève COMEAU (teacher, Xavière). Her talk was entitled: “Giving and receiving, a key to Christian life”. She emphasized the idea of relationship and added that of “returning”, which is to say, giving in turn.

Her position turned out to be very close to that of J.F. Mattei.

I could not stay for the afternoon. The points of view presented were:
that of the Muslims by the physician Youssef KOUIDRAT;
that of the Protestants by Denis MULLER, university professor;
that of the followers of the Baha’i religion, entitled “Giving of oneself, giving to humanity”.

These colloquia are organized by the Espace Ethique Méditerranéen [Mediterranean Ethical Space], which was founded by J.F. Mattei; it has a conference room and a library in the basement of the Timone Hospital in Marseille.

Sr. Geneviève NDS