Sidebar: Does Judaism allow organ donation?

By Regan Treewater-Lipes

(EJNews) – Worldwide, within the greater Jewish community, there are many misconceptions surrounding organ donation.

“It’s important that our community be aware that kidney donation is not only something that is accepted within Jewish thought and law, but something that, when someone feels they can do it, is in fact encouraged as a tremendous mitzvah,” explained Senior Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood New Jersey when discussing the work being done by Renewal, a non-profit organization that matches Jewish kidney donors and recipients.

Click here to read about Chabad Lubavich of Edmonton Rabbi Mendy Blachman recently donating a kidney in Edmonton Alberta.

“Judaism holds life as being sacred.  For this reason, donating an organ to save a life is one of the highest acts of virtue one can do.  But sometimes, precisely because life is sacred, organ donation is problematic,” writes Rabbi Aaron Moss of the Nefesh Community in Sydney Australia.  Perhaps for this reason, both within, and outside of Jewish circles there continues to be some misunderstanding around this topic.

“Jewish law distinguishes between donating organs within your lifetime and organs donated after death.  While you are alive, to donate an organ you can live without, like a kidney, or parts that will replenish themselves, like bone marrow or blood, in order to save or vastly improve another life, is one of the greatest acts you could do.

“In theory, the same should apply to donating organs after death. Being that saving lives overrides almost any other moral concern, the opportunity to do so after our death should be not only acceptable but even obligatory. So for example, though the Torah commands us to be buried whole, this command would step aside for the greater command to save lives. But in practice, consenting to have your organs removed after death presents some heavy problems.

“It is forbidden to tamper with a corpse in any way unless it is in order to directly save a life. But when you sign a consent form to have your organs removed, not all of those organs will necessarily be used for an immediate transplant. They may be used for research, or stored away, or even discarded if not needed. Jewish law only allows organ donation if it can be ensured that the organs will indeed be used to save lives,” explains Moss on the website.

“This is a life and death question.  We need higher wisdom to guide us.  I wouldn’t want to have to decide what is right and wrong based on my own subjective opinion and feelings.  Thank G-d we have the Torah to give us clarity in these ultimate issues.”

Click here for information about the Alberta Organ Donor Registry. 

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