Illinois Secretary of State

National Donor Sabbath Logo

Message from Secretary of State Jesse White

Once again, we are calling on religious organizations and faith-based communities to join us as we celebrate National Donor Sabbath during the weekend of November 11-13, 2022. On behalf of the more than 4,000 people who are waiting for life-saving organ transplants in Illinois, I invite you and your congregation to help raise awareness about organ and tissue donation. Read More

Learn the Facts

National Donor Sabbath is observed annually two weekends before Thanksgiving, from Friday through Sunday. This three-day observance seeks to include the days of worship for major religions practiced in the United States. During National Donor Sabbath, faith leaders from many religions, donor families, transplant recipients, and donation and transplantation professionals participate in services and programs to educate the public about the need for the lifesaving and healing gifts passed to others through transplantation, while also encouraging people to register their decision to be organ, eye and tissue donors.

Despite continuing efforts at public education, misconceptions and inaccuracies about donation and religious view persist. Learn these facts to better understand organ, eye and tissue donation:

  • Fact: There are approximately 100,000 people in the U.S. waiting for life-saving organ transplants.
  • Fact: In the U.S., on average, about 17 people die on the waiting list each day when organs were not available.
  • Fact: A single donor has the potential to save or enhance the lives of as many as 25 people.
  • Fact: A national computer system and strict standards are in place to ensure ethical and fair distribution of organs. Organs are matched by blood and tissue typing, organ size, medical urgency, waiting time and geographic location.
  • Fact: People of all ages and medical histories should consider themselves potential donors. Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissue can be donated.
  • Fact: Organs and tissue that can be donated include: heart, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, corneas, skin, tendons, bone, nerves, and heart valves.
  • Fact: Even if you have joined the Secretary of State's Organ/ Tissue Donor Registry, share your decision with your family so they know your wishes.
  • Fact: Organ/tissue donation is considered an act of generosity within most major religions. A comprehensive list of religious views on donation is included under resources.
  • Fact: An open-casket funeral is possible for organ and tissue donors.
  • Fact: There is no cost to the donor's family or estate for organ and tissue donation.
  • Fact: If you are sick, injured and admitted to the hospital, the number one priority for health professionals is to save your life. Organ/tissue donation can only be considered after brain death has been declared by a physician.
  • Fact: Information about an organ donor is only released to the recipient if the family of the donor requests or agrees to it. Otherwise, a patient's privacy is maintained for both donor families and recipients.
  • Fact: Living donation is another way to help others in need.
  • Fact: Donors are needed for all races and ethnic groups. Transplant success rates increase when organs are matched between members of the same ethnic background.
(Source: United Network for Organ Sharing)

Will registering to become a donor affect the care you receive in a medical emergency situation?
Doctors are only concerned about saving lives. That is their job. Additionally, they do not have access to the donor registry.

Do major eastern and western religions support or encourage donation and transplantation?
Faith leaders agree that if you have the ability to alleviate human suffering through donation, you should try.

Do rich and famous people receive transplants before others?
A national database matches organs from donors with people waiting based on illness, blood type, tissue type, geographical location and time on the waiting list. Income, fame, race or celebrity status are never considered.

Can a donor can have an open casket at a funeral?
The removal of organs is a respectful, surgical procedure with the body carefully restored afterward. There are no visible signs of donation.

Can you be too old to donate?
There have been individuals who have donated organs well into their 80s, and older individuals are, many times, very successful tissue donors.

Is the donor family charged for the removal of their loved ones organs?
Organs are considered gifts and are given to those in critical need. There is no cost.

What can clergy do?

An informed clergy can assist parishioners with facts and options about organ, eye and tissue donation.

Sermon Ideas

Clergy have their own unique way of sermon preparation and delivery. With that understanding and appreciation, the following suggestions are given as ideas.