An active blogger who is living in Jerusalem for a year recently posted about her experience celebrating the Jewish holiday of Purim. In her post, she describes her experience working with the Halachic Organ Donor Society, and in reading it I learned a little about the Jewish religion’s perspective on organ donation. Here’s an excerpt from her post:
I chose to participate in an educational project regarding halachic organ donation. The issues are as follows: Rabbis who object to organ donation do not do so because a body must be buried whole (though some people do use this as their objection). Rather, they object because organs are usually taken from a person who is brain-stem dead but whose heart is still beating with the help of a ventilator. These Rabbis consider a beating heart to be a sign of life and therefore donating organs at this point would be killing the donor. What I did for my day of chesed (kindness) was to spread some education on the issues as well as information on famous Rabbis who do agree with organ donation. A LOT of Orthodox and Haredi Jews follow the thoughts and ideals shared by their Rabbi so closely that they refuse to deviate from their Rabbi’s viewpoints. Therefore, if their Rabbi doesn’t agree with the idea of organ donation then they do not agree with organ donation. Luckily, the organization I worked with, the Halachic Organ Donation Society, has great information that lists every major Rebbe who supports the organization. Also, the organization created a donor card that allows donors to choose to donate their organs at brain-stem death or after cardiac death. So, a group of us stood on the busy intersection of Emek Refaim and Rachel Immeinu to hand out information and sign people up for organ donation cards (it helped that our friend, Josh, brought his cute new puppy. Puppies are always a great engagement tool).
I will be adding a link to the lists at right to the Halachic Organ Donor Society’s Web site.