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Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

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.

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Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

I was happy to learn via this blog post today that the current leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, is a registered organ donor, yea! He reportedly signed up as one several years ago, when he was a cardinal.  It’s largely a gesture, really, because the Pope’s body will be buried intact, just like the Popes before him.  But it’s a gesture that I, for one, honor and welcome!

The full post was about the Catholic Church’s official position on organ transplantation, which is overall a favorable one, except for some tension among some Catholic leaders on the tricky issue of brain death.  This got me thinking about how other religions view the topic of organ transplantation.  If you, like me, are thinking, “gee, how could I quickly understand the positions of dozens of different religions on this topic, without having to commit to any strenuous research?” then, voila! I have the answer for you!  The amazing online organ transplantation documentary called “The Gift of  Lifetime” has published a brief digest that summarizes the position of several religions — Amish, Shinto, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Greek Orthodox, Baptist and more. 

I’ve done my readers a disservice by not mentioning the Gift of a LIfetime site sooner.  It’s one of my favorite Web sites on the topic of organ transplantation, hands down, and had a permanent spot on my featured links list on my old Chopped Liver blog.  I’m adding it now to the permalinks on this site too, to the right.  It deserves a full blog post of its own to cover everything there, but two stand-out features I’ll mention right away are “The Interactive Body” link that walks you through an animated explanation of transplantable body parts, and the “Transplant Journey” centerpiece, a lovely motif of stories written by a group of journalists about real people as they wait for the gift of life or cope with the loss of loved ones who become donors.  

Meanwhile, while it rains it pours… my Google alert on the topic of “organ donation” pointed me to this post from a Jewish woman who lost a daughter, and subsequently published a blog rich with information on bereavement in the Jewish tradition.  She writes the following, which, as a disclaimer, I am in no position to confirm as accurate or deny as inaccurrate:

Being an organ donor is permitted according to all Jewish denominations once death has been clearly established, provided that instructions have been left in a written living will. Orthodox and Haredi Jews consult their rabbis before making the final choice and decision. In Israel many traditional Jews have not allowed the harvesting of deceased relatives’ organs in the mistaken belief that this is forbidden to Jews. Jewish law does not, however, permit donation of organs that are vital for survival from a donor who is in a near-dead state but not yet declared dead.

If any of you have further knowledge about religious points of view about organ donation, I would love to learn from you!  Drop a comment or send an email.

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