“You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)
I can’t tell you how many times observant Jews have told me that it is a violation of Jewish law to donate organs.
But, as it turns out, this “prohibition” on Jewish organ donation is false and should be ignored.
Jewish law and tradition state that life is precious, all Jews have a responsibility to help one another, and saving a life is the greatest thing anyone can do.
If organ donation can save a life, the obligations of both the living and dead to save life take precedence over other considerations.
This means that while alive, the donation of blood, or a kidney, to save another is a mitzvah and should be encouraged.
But what about the dead? Is organ donation from the dead accepted under Jewish law?
The simple answer is “yes”; organ donation from deceased donors to save the life of another is encouraged.
Of course, in Jewish law and tradition, nothing is simple, and the “fine print” on the definition of death is complicated.
In an age where a brain dead individual can be kept alive for years in a vegetative state, what is the meaning of death?
Does death occur when an individual is brain dead?
Or, does death occur when the heart stops beating?
And, if the heart is donated to save another’s life since it is better if blood flow continues through the entire organ donation process, how can the definition of death be when the heart stops beating.
Conservative and Reform Rabbis generally teach that the definition of death is flexible and includes when a donor is brain dead. This is also the case in Israel.
However, there is still controversy regarding the definition of death among Orthodox Rabbis and observant Jews should consult their Rabbi before making decisions.
The Halachic Organ Donor Society encourages Orthodox Jews to proceed with organ donation and is a resource to answer questions. You can read more about them and find their contact information by clicking this link https://hods.org/.
Other resources explaining Jewish organ donation include
Kronish Funeral Services encourages organ donation consistent with each family’s beliefs and considers it our honor to help facilitate organ donation.
Please contact us if you would like more information about organ donations and the options that exist in South Florida.