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Los Angeles, CA - Donation of Organs Has Support of Most Rabbis

Published on: March 12, 2009 09:29 AM
By: Jewish Journal By Thomas D. Mone
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Los Angeles, CA - It was a decision based on a widespread misunderstanding in the Jewish community, locally and nationally. A young boy not yet 10 years old lay brain dead in a Los Angeles hospital after suffering a severe head injury in an accident. The attending physician explained to the parents that their son was brain dead.

Then a representative of the organization that arranges organ donations in the Los Angeles area approached the boy’s parents and discussed the possibility of having their son’s organs donated; by doing so, they were told, the lives of as many as eight people might be saved.

The parents gave their consent. Shortly thereafter, their rabbi paid a visit to them in the hospital. When they told him about agreeing to have the son’s organs donated, he quickly responded:

“Oh, absolutely not. You can’t donate organs. You’re Jewish.”

At that, the parents rescinded their offer to donate.

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Now, as the chief executive of the organ procurement organization serving most of Southern California, I was distressed to learn about the parents’ change of heart. Not only did it mean that several people on waiting lists for organs might die; it also deprived the parents of the comfort that would come from having their son leave a legacy of generosity.

But their withdrawal of consent didn’t surprise me. While most Jews and Jewish organizations support organ donation, there are still some Orthodox groups that ardently oppose it.

Although I’m a non-Jew, I have become aware of nivul hamet, the biblical prohibition against the needless mutilation of a cadaver. According to the Halachic Organ Donor Society  (HODS), this prohibition is the reason why autopsies should not be performed on Jews.

I’m also aware of halanat hamet, a biblical prohibition against delaying burial of a body, and hana’at hamet, a prohibition — some say biblical; others say rabbinical — against anyone benefiting from a dead body, such as selling it for medical research.

But as the HODS points out, a basic tenet of Jewish law — pikuach nefesh — overrides both of these prohibitions and commandments because it says: “Save one life and it is as if you have saved the entire world.”

HODS, on its Web site, goes on to note that rabbis who object to organ donation do not do so on the basis that a body must be buried whole. Rather, says HODS, “Their objection makes sense if they believed that organ donation was taking critical organs from a live person, and that would, in effect, be killing the person.”

But it is very clear in law and medical practice around the world that brain death is, in fact, “death,” a determination that was confirmed just a few weeks ago by the President’s Council on Bioethics.

And the distinguished Orthodox rabbis who support organ donation through HODS strongly agree that brain death is death and disagree with those who contend it’s wrong to take organs from a person who is brain dead but whose heart is still beating. In the Winter 2008 issue of the national publication, Jewish Action, HODS says these rabbis “all agree that brain-stem death [the medical requirement for a brain death declaration] is halachic death, even though the heart is still beating [because it is supported by mechanical ventilation] — and [they] support organ donation.”

(The six rabbis quoted by HODS are Shaul Yisraeli z”l, former dayan, Chief Rabbinate of Israel; Dovid Shloosh, chief rabbi of Netanya; Avraham Shapira z”l, former Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel; Shlomo Amar, Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel; Ovadya Yosef, former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel; and Mordechai Eliyahu, former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel.)

It is my fond hope that this discussion will clear up the misunderstandings harbored by some members of the Los Angeles Jewish community. At any given moment, there are some 100,000 people, many of them Jews, on those waiting lists for organs. A decision to donate by families who lose loved ones to brain death will enable many of those desperately needy people to live.


Thomas D. Mone is chief executive officer of OneLegacy, the organ procurement organization serving Los Angeles County and six other Southern California counties. He is also past president of the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs), which comprises OneLegacy and 57 other federally designated OPOs, and is a director of UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing.


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1

 Mar 12, 2009 at 08:33 AM BIG JEW Says:

where are the American Rabbonim? He couldnt get their endorsement?

2

 Mar 12, 2009 at 08:42 AM Anonymous Says:

I've noticed that the signators are Gedolei HaSefaradim. I believe the Nodah B'Yehudah allowed an autopsy to save someone else ill with the same disease - I haven't seen it inside. What do the Gedolei Ashkenaz say about this?

3

 Mar 12, 2009 at 08:59 AM Organ donation is murder Says:

Most poskim hold that organ donation requires organs in a fresh state and this can only be achieved by taking them from a living person and in effect killing him.

The majority of significant poskim hold this way. There is also a great danger that doctors or others who have non Torah viewpoints would bend the rules to get the organ donations done which would lead to additional untimely deaths.

4

 Mar 12, 2009 at 09:02 AM Anonymous Says:

I don't see 1 heimshe ehrliche rabonim (the type that baned Lipa) so it must be assur

5

 Mar 12, 2009 at 09:01 AM Hallacha Says:

The main opposition to it is because by Jewish law the person is considered to still be alive and not because of nivul hamais. So I'm sure that some Rabonnim think we follow the brain death but since most orthodox raboonim disagree and I don't understand how you can write that an article as if there is no halchic basis for disallowing it. And in fact there are more halachic problems with donating to another Jew then to give it to a gentile.

6

 Mar 12, 2009 at 08:52 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
BIG JEW Says:

where are the American Rabbonim? He couldnt get their endorsement?

Why do you need the endorsment of american rabonim?
"Ki mitzion tezei torah udvar hashem mirushalayim". I would however like to see the haskomo of the more well known poskim.

7

 Mar 12, 2009 at 09:04 AM Anonymous Says:

please note according to 99% frum orthodox gedolim only when the heart completly stops is one considered nifter and its not based on the brain activitiy. PLEASE GET A LIVING WILL its very important especialy if you are not in NY.

YU hold diffrent and states once brain activity stops.

THIS IS THE DIFFRENCE OF MEDICAL STUDIES AND THE TORAH.

8

 Mar 12, 2009 at 09:11 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

I don't see 1 heimshe ehrliche rabonim (the type that baned Lipa) so it must be assur

stop it with the lipa stuf. the few rabbonim involved have already made it clear that they made a mistake. and the poskim most of us rely on had nothing to do with that anyway. just move on.

9

 Mar 12, 2009 at 09:10 AM CLARIFY VNN: MOST GEDOLIM PROHIBIT HARVESTING OF ORGANS ON BRAIN DEAD PATIENTS Says:

just for clarification. taking a kidney from alive donor has about a 90% succsess rate vs a cadiver which is around 15-20%. This is proff that there is still life in the person in one takes out organs when the heart is still beating. Brain dead is not considered NIFTER. I owuld also ask the Sphardish community to clarify if the above article is actualy true of those liste din the endorsments to allow harvesting of organs once a person is ONLY brain dead and the heart is still actualy pumping(however it may be via artifical or natural)

10

 Mar 12, 2009 at 09:52 AM Anonymous Says:

Hashem should definitely never put any of us in such a position, but can anyone please explain, why a brain-dead person is considered as living. Of course I don'e envy the person who is given the job of stopping the heart, but we need to clarify the scientific definition of life by Torah guidelines , and not just by emotional standards. This needs rabonnim with "breite" shoulders, and even more "breite" intelligence, both Torah as well as medical, and with a generous helping of common sense and objectivity.

11

 Mar 12, 2009 at 09:59 AM Anonymous Says:

This article discusses brain dead only. What about heart dead? Are Jews allowed to donate their organs immediately after they were declared completely dead? If not, why not? Doesn’t the commandment to save another life outweigh the prohibition against mutilation?

12

 Mar 12, 2009 at 09:37 AM CA Says:

"just for clarification. taking a kidney from alive donor has about a 90% succsess rate vs a cadiver which is around 15-20%. This is proff that there is still life in the person in one takes out organs when the heart is still beating."

No it’s not. There is a clear definition of "life" in Halacha. It’s not biological viability on the one extreme or ability to support consciousness on the other. It’s ability to autonomously breath (i.e., without machines).

If a person cannot breath by himself, he is dead according to Halacha. If his cortex is destroyed (thus making him a vegetable), but he is breathing on his own, he is still alive, meaning, the neshama is still in the body. If he stopped breathing, it is a siman that neshama has left the body, even though the lower aspects of the soul are still present (and they will be present until the body completely decomposes), which gives the body biological viability.

13

 Mar 12, 2009 at 10:32 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #9  
CLARIFY VNN: MOST GEDOLIM PROHIBIT HARVESTING OF ORGANS ON BRAIN DEAD PATIENTS Says:

just for clarification. taking a kidney from alive donor has about a 90% succsess rate vs a cadiver which is around 15-20%. This is proff that there is still life in the person in one takes out organs when the heart is still beating. Brain dead is not considered NIFTER. I owuld also ask the Sphardish community to clarify if the above article is actualy true of those liste din the endorsments to allow harvesting of organs once a person is ONLY brain dead and the heart is still actualy pumping(however it may be via artifical or natural)

100% reb moshe, i dont know about others, states clearly that a person is not dead until his heart stops beating and brings lots of raiyos on this. he states the person taking an organ fron a person thats only brain dead a killer. BTW look up online a few stories ladeis having healthy babies when they were completley brain dead. i wonder if a lady would conceive when braindead probaply yes. soo this comes to prove the person is alive his neshume is there OD BO NISHMUSO.

14

 Mar 12, 2009 at 11:04 AM Hirsch Says:

Reply to #13  
Anonymous Says:

100% reb moshe, i dont know about others, states clearly that a person is not dead until his heart stops beating and brings lots of raiyos on this. he states the person taking an organ fron a person thats only brain dead a killer. BTW look up online a few stories ladeis having healthy babies when they were completley brain dead. i wonder if a lady would conceive when braindead probaply yes. soo this comes to prove the person is alive his neshume is there OD BO NISHMUSO.

If as you state it is dependent on the heart, then surely someone being "kept alive" on bypass with no heart should be able to donate all his organs? A member of the HODS came to the UK about 3 years ago and rocked the boat a bit, but no clarification has been forthcoming over here.
It indeed needs some mainstream rabanim who are universally respected to come out with a general clarification, though obviously each case RL' is unique.
What is the opinion of the Ashkanazi Chief Rabinate in Israel, i.e. the current or previous chief Rabbi??

15

 Mar 12, 2009 at 11:04 AM Anonymous Says:

We've read enough stories of doctors wanting to pull the plug on "brain dead" people and then miraculously the person wakes up, speaks and continues to life a full life.
I assume if someone wakes up and finds out that his child gave permission to donate one of his organs, that child would definitely be left out of his parent's will.
I personally don't know anyone willing to risk his inheritance to save another person's life.

16

 Mar 12, 2009 at 11:10 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #11  
Anonymous Says:

This article discusses brain dead only. What about heart dead? Are Jews allowed to donate their organs immediately after they were declared completely dead? If not, why not? Doesn’t the commandment to save another life outweigh the prohibition against mutilation?

Not possible to donate organs after heart stops beating- the problem in this case is medical, not halachic, as far as I know. This is an extremely complicated halachic issue. It is extremely inappropriate to have this discussed by people with little or no knowledge of halacha, myself included. nuf said

17

 Mar 12, 2009 at 10:57 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
BIG JEW Says:

where are the American Rabbonim? He couldnt get their endorsement?

there are plenty of american rabbonim and roshei yeshiva who support the work of hods.

18

 Mar 12, 2009 at 10:56 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #6  
Anonymous Says:

Why do you need the endorsment of american rabonim?
"Ki mitzion tezei torah udvar hashem mirushalayim". I would however like to see the haskomo of the more well known poskim.

they are all well known. (sorry if in your daled amos they arent as famous as your local chumra macher)

19

 Mar 12, 2009 at 10:55 AM 1 Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

stop it with the lipa stuf. the few rabbonim involved have already made it clear that they made a mistake. and the poskim most of us rely on had nothing to do with that anyway. just move on.

NO they most certainly have not. One (kaminetsky) Did. just one. he is a lone daas yochid (unfortunately)

20

 Mar 12, 2009 at 11:21 AM Concerned Member Says:

13. No a woman can not conceive after brain death. The reason delivery can take place after brain death is simply because essential functions related to the flow of nutrients are kept running artificially. It is an incredibly risky situation that requires monitoring every second. You're making it sound far easier than it is, and sadly the success rate for a healthy baby being delivered from a brain dead mother is less than you would assume.

As far as heart beat goes... theoretically a machine can keep a person's heart beating as long as the cellular structure of the heart is intact, which can be far far longer than you'd imagine. Same thing with respiration.

The key is autonomous respiration and circulation. In the absence of that, the person is not alive.

Respiration in particular is a horrible horrible way of determining death. Hundreds of years ago before modern medical technology, THOUSANDS of people were buried alive because the "doctors" of the time would often declare a patient dead because he "wasn't breathing" or had a pulse that they could not detect. This was unbelievably common in those days.

The only surefire way to define if someone has died is to check for activity in the portions of the brain responsible for the critical functions of life. If there is no activity there it is physically impossible for the person to have a heartbeat or respiration without mechanical assitance. Is that alive? I don't think so. That's a machine hooked up to a niftar and it's an unnecessary pain inflicted on the Neshama.

21

 Mar 12, 2009 at 11:20 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #15  
Anonymous Says:

We've read enough stories of doctors wanting to pull the plug on "brain dead" people and then miraculously the person wakes up, speaks and continues to life a full life.
I assume if someone wakes up and finds out that his child gave permission to donate one of his organs, that child would definitely be left out of his parent's will.
I personally don't know anyone willing to risk his inheritance to save another person's life.

no one who has ever been decalred "brain dead" has woken up to a full life.

22

 Mar 12, 2009 at 11:36 AM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #5  
Hallacha Says:

The main opposition to it is because by Jewish law the person is considered to still be alive and not because of nivul hamais. So I'm sure that some Rabonnim think we follow the brain death but since most orthodox raboonim disagree and I don't understand how you can write that an article as if there is no halchic basis for disallowing it. And in fact there are more halachic problems with donating to another Jew then to give it to a gentile.

"And in fact there are more halachic problems with donating to another Jew then to give it to a gentile."

How do you figure that?

23

 Mar 12, 2009 at 11:35 AM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #11  
Anonymous Says:

This article discusses brain dead only. What about heart dead? Are Jews allowed to donate their organs immediately after they were declared completely dead? If not, why not? Doesn’t the commandment to save another life outweigh the prohibition against mutilation?

To save a ben yisroel who is a choleh befoneinu, it certainly does. In other cases, no, it doesn't.

24

 Mar 12, 2009 at 11:33 AM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

I've noticed that the signators are Gedolei HaSefaradim. I believe the Nodah B'Yehudah allowed an autopsy to save someone else ill with the same disease - I haven't seen it inside. What do the Gedolei Ashkenaz say about this?

Neither R Shaul Yisre'eli nor R Avraham Shapira were Sefardim. And they were fairly major poskim. But they do not add up to "most rabbis". There is nothing in the article to support the heading.

I was more disturbed by this: "But it is very clear in law and medical practice around the world that brain death is, in fact, “death,” a determination that was confirmed just a few weeks ago by the President’s Council on Bioethics. "

Neither "law", nor "medical practice around the world", nor "the President’s Council on Bioethics" have any place in determining halacha. Nobody authorised any of these people to decide questions of right and wrong. If the person is alive, he remains alive no matter how many legislators, doctors, or "bioethicists" declare otherwise, and killing him is murder. Even if there is only a safek whether he is alive, his pikuach nefesh is enough to justify breaking shabbos for him; how much more so is it enough to justify not cutting him up for spare parts!

26

 Mar 12, 2009 at 11:59 AM Anonymous Says:

Moshe Emes Visoraso Emes. Rav Moshe Zecher Tzaddik Levrocha Paskened that brain death is not death and taking someones heart before it stops on its own is murder. Les Maan Dpalig, that Rav Moshe was bigger than all of them combined and that his Daas Torah was true Daas Torah. It is offensive to me as a frum yid that respects all sides of the debate, that the Hods society has presented a one sided view to the public and attempts to influence legitimate halachic debate and practice through the use of sensationalist public relations tactics. The Hods mafia in my opinion is treife.

27

 Mar 12, 2009 at 12:12 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #26  
Anonymous Says:

Moshe Emes Visoraso Emes. Rav Moshe Zecher Tzaddik Levrocha Paskened that brain death is not death and taking someones heart before it stops on its own is murder. Les Maan Dpalig, that Rav Moshe was bigger than all of them combined and that his Daas Torah was true Daas Torah. It is offensive to me as a frum yid that respects all sides of the debate, that the Hods society has presented a one sided view to the public and attempts to influence legitimate halachic debate and practice through the use of sensationalist public relations tactics. The Hods mafia in my opinion is treife.

Hmm, So what do you consider to be alive? Can one remove a heart from a brain dead person and put the person on Bypass? You won't be killing him.

28

 Mar 12, 2009 at 12:37 PM Concerned Member Says:

26... in your own words: "taking someone's heart before it stops on its own is murder".

That is what you just said isn't it?

How does that differ from what was said earlier? When the brain death occurs the heart CAN NOT beat on its own. The brain sends signals to the heart to beat. It does not beat on its own without the brain. There are no two ways about this.

The absence of brain activity = the absence of signals telling the heart to pump. Just hooking the person up to a machine DOES NOT mean the heart is beating on its own! No brain activity = no heart beat. Ever.

29

 Mar 12, 2009 at 12:35 PM Anonymous Says:

what about ariel sharon?

30

 Mar 12, 2009 at 01:36 PM Bugsy Siegel Says:

If it is not ok to donate organs, then why would you accept them? If you think someone is being murdered why are you benefiting from their murder by accepting their organs? Conclusion: Jews are not allowed to receive organs as well as donate organs!?!

31

 Mar 12, 2009 at 02:32 PM Anonymous Says:

For all of you who are against brain death as the definition of life and insist that is the halachic way, I hope you or your loved ones never have need for a kidney or other organ because you'll never know the halachic state of the donor. No pikuach nefesh for you.

32

 Mar 12, 2009 at 02:59 PM thee dee Says:

first of all killing someone to save someone else is assur and pikuach nefesh to override all other commandments is only to save a jewish life

33

 Mar 12, 2009 at 03:26 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #30  
Bugsy Siegel Says:

If it is not ok to donate organs, then why would you accept them? If you think someone is being murdered why are you benefiting from their murder by accepting their organs? Conclusion: Jews are not allowed to receive organs as well as donate organs!?!

A non Jew has a right to accept upon himself the legal defenition of brain death as being death. A Jew must follow the Torah and if the Torah is of the opinion that brain death is not death then a Jew must follow the Torah over Secular law and not donate.

34

 Mar 12, 2009 at 04:40 PM Anonymous Says:

first of all, while most gedolim hold that brain death is not death and therefore forbid organ donation, we need to understand that the few daios that hold by brain death are NOT saying so because of science and secular influences; their decision is based on what the halacha has to say about decapitation (after decapitation, the heart can continue to beat for a few minutes, but the person is very obviously dead). They hold that brain death is like decapitation (I'm not saying they're right, as most gedolim obviously disagree with this, just saying that they are learned men basing themselves on halacha as any Rav must do, and are deserving of the respect accorded a Rav).
Also I get that goyim may "waive" their heart death in exchange for brain death, but what if a Jew (say, someone secular, or someone who holds like those as HODS) does that? Are you now going to have to be makpid that you don't recieve organs from them? Perhaps you should (as an aside, one should be extremely makpid about organs coming from China and other such places where people are routinely murdered for their organs, without even being brain dead. In fact, I remember hearing that R' Ovadiah Yosef has forbidden accepting such organs.)
A final note about organ donation in general: There is such a thing as live donation, and that is good and encouraged by halacha. Kidneys and livers (which are regenerative) can be donated live. So you can save a life while following all daios!

35

 Mar 12, 2009 at 04:43 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

Hashem should definitely never put any of us in such a position, but can anyone please explain, why a brain-dead person is considered as living. Of course I don'e envy the person who is given the job of stopping the heart, but we need to clarify the scientific definition of life by Torah guidelines , and not just by emotional standards. This needs rabonnim with "breite" shoulders, and even more "breite" intelligence, both Torah as well as medical, and with a generous helping of common sense and objectivity.

Reb Moshe Feinstein Z"L had very very broad shoulders and was eminently capable of paskening this shailo. In fact he did so. He paskened that it is MURDER to take the organs out of a living body. The halachic definition of death is cessation of the heart beating and breathing. Some Rabbis, such as Rabbi Tendler PhD, believe differently but they are in the minority of the halachic mainstream.

36

 Mar 12, 2009 at 04:55 PM Anonymous Says:

The heart and lungs of someone "brain dead" are functioning on their own, even though he needs a respirator. There is still electrical activity in his brain cells. The head still has much to do with the body because you can tell the temperature of the body through the head by inserting a thermometer under the tongue.
Because of economic considerations and personal considerations by relatives of someone waiting for a transplant, there are possibilities of moral corruption for those making the decisions of brain death. There is no clear cut definition of what brain death is and before there was heart transplants, the definition of death in the US was not "brain death"-it was only the criterion after it became heart transplantation became available.There is also the possibility that a doctor will not do all he can to save a life, so that organs can be gotten.
Most poskim have OPPOSED organ donation.

37

 Mar 12, 2009 at 05:36 PM Charlie Hall Says:

Reply to #34  
Anonymous Says:

first of all, while most gedolim hold that brain death is not death and therefore forbid organ donation, we need to understand that the few daios that hold by brain death are NOT saying so because of science and secular influences; their decision is based on what the halacha has to say about decapitation (after decapitation, the heart can continue to beat for a few minutes, but the person is very obviously dead). They hold that brain death is like decapitation (I'm not saying they're right, as most gedolim obviously disagree with this, just saying that they are learned men basing themselves on halacha as any Rav must do, and are deserving of the respect accorded a Rav).
Also I get that goyim may "waive" their heart death in exchange for brain death, but what if a Jew (say, someone secular, or someone who holds like those as HODS) does that? Are you now going to have to be makpid that you don't recieve organs from them? Perhaps you should (as an aside, one should be extremely makpid about organs coming from China and other such places where people are routinely murdered for their organs, without even being brain dead. In fact, I remember hearing that R' Ovadiah Yosef has forbidden accepting such organs.)
A final note about organ donation in general: There is such a thing as live donation, and that is good and encouraged by halacha. Kidneys and livers (which are regenerative) can be donated live. So you can save a life while following all daios!

Rav Elyashiv has also been quoted publicly as saying that Jews can not accept organ transplants from China obtained under such circumstances.

38

 Mar 12, 2009 at 05:34 PM Charlie Hall Says:

Reply to #14  
Hirsch Says:

If as you state it is dependent on the heart, then surely someone being "kept alive" on bypass with no heart should be able to donate all his organs? A member of the HODS came to the UK about 3 years ago and rocked the boat a bit, but no clarification has been forthcoming over here.
It indeed needs some mainstream rabanim who are universally respected to come out with a general clarification, though obviously each case RL' is unique.
What is the opinion of the Ashkanazi Chief Rabinate in Israel, i.e. the current or previous chief Rabbi??

Rav Shapira z'tz'l was a chief rabbi and is quoted in the article as supporting brain death as the halachic definition of death. I don't know if his two successors have spoken on the matter.

39

 Mar 12, 2009 at 05:53 PM Avrohom Abba Says:

A liver (which is an organ) taken from a completely, absolutely, totally dead person can last and be viable for transplant for up to 16 hours later. That means the organ does not have to come from someone who is ,"a little dead," or "brain dead." it means that an organ from a totally dead person is still helpful after an official death. I am alive (with Hashem's help of course), because of what i just described. After they removed my liver, I received a cadaver liver five years ago b"H.

40

 Mar 12, 2009 at 05:42 PM Charlie Hall Says:

Reply to #36  
Anonymous Says:

The heart and lungs of someone "brain dead" are functioning on their own, even though he needs a respirator. There is still electrical activity in his brain cells. The head still has much to do with the body because you can tell the temperature of the body through the head by inserting a thermometer under the tongue.
Because of economic considerations and personal considerations by relatives of someone waiting for a transplant, there are possibilities of moral corruption for those making the decisions of brain death. There is no clear cut definition of what brain death is and before there was heart transplants, the definition of death in the US was not "brain death"-it was only the criterion after it became heart transplantation became available.There is also the possibility that a doctor will not do all he can to save a life, so that organs can be gotten.
Most poskim have OPPOSED organ donation.

I attended a European Neurology conference last summer and one of the major topics was determination of death. Almost all European countries except Denmark had made brain death the official legal definition of death; mention was made of the fact that Israel had recently done so with the approval of many religious leaders (i.e. Orthodox rabbis such as those mentioned in the article). The gist of the program was that determination of brain death is not as simple as it sounds and that there are no standardized criteria for doing so; some of the presenters were urging Europe-wide standards in order to avoid possible ethical problems such as mentioned in this comment. So doctors are aware of these issues.

BTW, a doctor is not required to do "all he can" to save a life. A doctor can not give any treatment against the will of a patient and is ethically required NOT to treat a patient if he believes that the treatment would be futile.

41

 Mar 12, 2009 at 05:32 PM Charlie Hall Says:

Reply to #26  
Anonymous Says:

Moshe Emes Visoraso Emes. Rav Moshe Zecher Tzaddik Levrocha Paskened that brain death is not death and taking someones heart before it stops on its own is murder. Les Maan Dpalig, that Rav Moshe was bigger than all of them combined and that his Daas Torah was true Daas Torah. It is offensive to me as a frum yid that respects all sides of the debate, that the Hods society has presented a one sided view to the public and attempts to influence legitimate halachic debate and practice through the use of sensationalist public relations tactics. The Hods mafia in my opinion is treife.

According to Rav Moshe's son-in-law, Rav Moshe took the opposite position.

42

 Mar 12, 2009 at 09:46 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #41  
Charlie Hall Says:

According to Rav Moshe's son-in-law, Rav Moshe took the opposite position.

Why don't all of you watch the video of Reb Moshe's son stating what his father a"h held?

43

 Mar 12, 2009 at 09:58 PM Knowledgeable reader Says:

There is a major controversy, which has been ongoing for over two decades, as to whether 'brain death' (a misnomer, as parts of the brain are not fully dead in a significant percentage of cases) is an acceptable criterion for death in halacha. The large majority of poskim, led by Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztl, Rav Waldenberg ztl, and many poskim, including ybmchlch Rav Elyashiv, shlita, reject brain death as halachic death and require the criteria of the Chasam Sofer, ie complete lack of motion, and cardiac cessation as well as respiratory cessation. Those who accept 'brain death' as valid have done so only in Eretz Yisrael and only when there is proper hashgacha, points conveniently overlooked by the agenda-driven "Halachic Organ Donor Society," an essentially one-man operation, led by a single modern fellow, and which receives funding from the government to promote organ donation from Jews to the general community--which has not been allowed by any posek of stature.

Some of the tactics of HODS have raised eyebrows, such as the leader of HODS using a bullhorn to scream "Jews get organs, Jews should give organs" during the Israel Day Parade, in front of police officers and other non-Jews.

To remove organs from someone who has been declared 'brain dead' would be murder, according to the large majority of poskim who reject brain death.

Interestingly, many scientists, doctors, and even philosophers have admitted that portions of the brain are still functioning in some cases of brain death, and that the definition is rather arbitrary. The latest twist is to talk about 'brain stem death' which is an even more liberal definition of 'death' and which does not require 'death' of the whole brain.

As for the comment above about Y.U., the major poskim at Y.U. reject brain death. One of the foremost opponents to brain death is Rabbi J. David Bleich of Y.U. The rabbi who has been pushing the notion of brain death for years was the sole conduit to Rav Moshe Feinstein ztl and his representation of Rav Moshe's views and correspondence(eg the Bondi letter) has been subject to much criticism.

The article referred to an advertisement in JEWISH ACTION, not an article.

The R.C.A. has been studying the issue for quite some time and for reasons unknown has not taken a public position.

44

 Mar 13, 2009 at 02:05 AM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #41  
Charlie Hall Says:

According to Rav Moshe's son-in-law, Rav Moshe took the opposite position.

Yes, the question is whether we believe him.

45

 Mar 13, 2009 at 02:02 AM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #30  
Bugsy Siegel Says:

If it is not ok to donate organs, then why would you accept them? If you think someone is being murdered why are you benefiting from their murder by accepting their organs? Conclusion: Jews are not allowed to receive organs as well as donate organs!?!

Ridiculous and illogical. The person is being killed anyway, and nothing you do can save him; if you refuse the organ, it will just go to someone else. So why should you die just out of squeamishness? Would you refuse a medical procedure that was developed out of Mengele's research?

46

 Mar 13, 2009 at 06:17 AM Knowledgeable Reader Says:

Regarding the comments of #30 and #45, indeed Rav Elyashiv shlita has forbidden going to China to receive organs from condemned prisoners, who seem to conveniently be executed the same day as the potential recipient is prepped and ready for the transplant--stating that this may be hastening the death even of a convicted murderer and is a chillul Hashem.

The issue of whether a member of a group whose rabbis reject 'brain death' as halachic death should be able to receive an organ is complex. HODS and other organizations now seem to be pushing policies to discriminate against those Yidden who listen to rabbonim which forbid organ donation prior to cardiac cessation. In other words, if for purely religious reasons you decline to sign an organ donor card, according to this new 'initiative' you would never be able to get an organ.

This is Machiavellian (evil).

We give organs to all sorts of people, good and bad, and such discrimination should never be tolerated.

47

 Mar 13, 2009 at 11:01 AM PMO Says:

This debate has existed for years in our community. When medical science and "proof of life" definitions are evolving so fast that we can barely keep up with it, we have to be extra cautious. Many poskim have made rulings on this issue over the years, some of whom are no longer with us. While I in no way claim to have the answers, I also know that I cannot rely on a psak from 20 years ago. We have more facts today. There has been a push for many years for more universally accepted poskim to band together on this issue. What was assur to do yesterday, may be assur NOT to do tomorrow. I would like to see some contemporary experts and poskim weigh in on this issue and make a determination.

48

 Mar 13, 2009 at 05:11 PM Anonymous Says:

The comments of #47 are interesting. Today's poskim very much rely on halachic precedents such as the teshuva of the Chatam Sofer, who required 3 criteria--body immobile like a stone (which is not the case in 'brain dead' patients), cardiac cessation (also not the case in 'brain death' patients), and respiratory cessation (arguably exists in 'brain death' patients, as their respirations are being controlled by a ventilator).

The large majority of poskim continue to reject brain death as halachic death. This is a halachic determination. Those of us who follow these rabbanim have to accept their psak. This is what happened in the case of Motl Brody zl.

Realize that how one defines death is not really a medical issue. Of course, many cells will still be alive in people who are considered halachically dead according to all opinions, so we cannot define death as death of each and every cell of the body. The argument is where to draw the line, so to speak This is a halachic controversy based on a Gemara in Yoma, primarily. The bottom line is that this is one of the most difficult controversies in medical halacha and groups like HODS do a disservice with their advocacy and raising anti-orthodox feelings.

49

 Mar 14, 2009 at 10:16 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #47  
PMO Says:

This debate has existed for years in our community. When medical science and "proof of life" definitions are evolving so fast that we can barely keep up with it, we have to be extra cautious. Many poskim have made rulings on this issue over the years, some of whom are no longer with us. While I in no way claim to have the answers, I also know that I cannot rely on a psak from 20 years ago. We have more facts today. There has been a push for many years for more universally accepted poskim to band together on this issue. What was assur to do yesterday, may be assur NOT to do tomorrow. I would like to see some contemporary experts and poskim weigh in on this issue and make a determination.

So you believe that the torah from yesterday does not apply to today!

50

 Mar 15, 2009 at 03:15 AM ben chomeish limikra Says:

RASHI believed in Spontaneous Generation. So you see the greatest rabbonim/tzaddikim make mistakes when they talk about things outside their expertise. There are areas where the "goyim" know more than the Yidden. One of these areas is medicine. 99.9% of people in the medical field are not Orthodox Jews, and Orthodox Jews should listen.

51

 Mar 17, 2009 at 01:32 PM Anonymous Says:

I would like to see the opinions of those who are both rabbis and practicing physicians. One such individual who comes to mind is Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz.

I heard a story about a man on death row(who isn't Jewish) who beacame more religious in prison. When it came time for him to be executed, he asked that he be executed by having his organs harvested for donation. His request was denied. I think this was a great disgrace. Some have even gone as far to suggest that the method of execution for all those who are physically healthy be by having organs harvested. That is much more controversial. Offering prisioners on death row who are about to be executed the option of death penalty by organ harvesting seems to make sense. Some would argue that though that this encourages a much more rapid enforcement of the death penalty, and that more innocent people might be executed as a result. It also brings up the issue that there may not be a surgeon available who is willing to be involved in this. Would enforcing the death penalty by organ harvesting be against Jewish law(assuming the condemned man's death is not hastened?)

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