Organ donation a mitzvah

Organ donation a mitzvah

I agree entirely with your editorial’s main point – that the N.Y. Times rarely misses an opportunity to give a black eye to religion in general and to Judaism and Israel in particular (“What’s up with the Times?” August 22). I can’t recall the last article that showed religious Jews in a positive light.

We Jews have a serious problem, however, when it comes to organ donation. It is a fact that Israeli Jews have been in the forefront of illegal and unethical transplant tourism, where Jewish patients in need of a kidney have no ethical qualms about exploiting impoverished people in poor countries who are paid relatively little to donate their kidneys. This is chillul Hashem – desecration of God’s name – on a grand scale.

In addition, the unwillingness of many posekim (halachic decisors) on the right wing of the halachic spectrum to recognize brain death as death (although many learned Orthodox posekim do accept brain death) and thereby relegate Jews to becoming takers but never donors of vital organs – other than live kidney donations – is a further stain. These posekim say that it is murder to remove vital organs from brain-dead patients for transplant, but they allow Jews to accept these organs. It would seem ethically and halachically more correct to disallow Jews from accepting organs from patients whom they view as having been murdered.

I am a proud member of the board of the Halachic Organ Donor Society. HODS seeks to educate Jews about the mitzvah of organ donation and to teach them that there are many esteemed Orthodox posekim who accept the brain dead definition of death.

But we have a long way to go. Until Jews become less prominent in the ugly field of black market organ donation, and become more willing to donate as well as to accept organs, we can be sure that these facts will be grist for the mills of those who wish to show Jews and Judaism in a negative light.