In the spring of 1993 I underwent a cornea transplant in my right eye to repair a condition I have called keratoconus. Though I never had the opportunity to meet my donor’s family, or even learn her name, I was told that it was a young teen who tragically committed suicide. Through the process of receiving the transplant, I spent a lot of time studying about what Jewish law says about organ donation. To be honest it is an issue that has changed over time. With the modernization of medicine and science, the overwhelming consensus among rabbinic authorities across the spectrum on when life ends, has changed. It is just over the last 30-40 years that most streams of Judaism from Reform to Orthodox have come to recognize that is halachakily permissible to donate our organs to save someone else’s life. Some denominations have said it is not only permissible, it is required by Jewish law to donate our organs to save someone’s life.
There is much to say and teach about organ donation that I cannot expand on in a short shtender article: the medical definition of the end of life, the command to treat the dead body with dignity, the command to save a life and more all play into the mitzvah of donating our organs to save a life. There is a nice succinct article on myjewishlearning.com that does a great job of summarizing all the relevant issues related to organ donation. I encourage you to read to prepare for our guest speaker Friday night:
On Friday night, as part of our 52 Shabbats program, we will hear from Becky Mintz a local woman who received a heart transplant nine years ago.