medical imams 248 88.
(photo credit: Judy Seigel)
Leading Muslim clergy from northern Israel have come out strongly in support of the recent law recognizing lower brain death as the criterion for removing donor organs for transplant. The move follows the revelation on Sunday of a letter written by Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Ya'acov Litzman, in which he states his personal opposition to the brain death criterion.
The Muslim religious leaders met over the weekend at Haifa's Carmel Medical Center.
Litzman, a Gur hassid whose rebbe opposes using the criterion of the death of the lower brain while the individual's heart is still beating, said he "observes the law" but nevertheless does not recognize the brain-death criterion for allowing organs to be removed from a breathing person. He called for using the option of respecting the views of family members when doctors decide whether to "harvest" the organs of a brain-dead person.
The organizers noted that the Knesset recently passed a law recognizing brain death and not heart cessation as the basis for removing organs. The Chief Rabbinate reiterated its position recognizing brain death a few weeks ago. But Litzman, along with many Israeli - but not necessarily foreign - haredim, insist the person is not dead until his heart stops. Yet the organs are much less likely to be transplanted successfully if removed after the heart stops.
A month ago, a young Muslim woman was killed in a road accident. Her parents decided to donate three of her organs, and three people were saved.
Imam Kiel Omar, who is also a physician, noted that only a third of those waiting for organs last year actually received one, as the queue is long. It is not against Islamic law to donate organs or to do so after brain death, Omar said. Nevertheless, he added that it was very difficult to persuade Muslims to do so. The unusual meeting was the first significant step towards increasing awareness in the Muslim Arab community, he said, adding that he regularly preaches in favor or organ donation in his sermons in his village.
Carmel transplant coordinator Edna Raz said despite 750 patients waiting for a lifesaving organ, only 244 organs are transplanted a year. Raz and hospital physician Dr. Arik Eden have initiated a Carmel campaign to promote increased organ donation. Stalls representing ADI, the Israel Transplant-affiliated center for enlisting potential organ donors, are present at various places on the medical center campus; 600 people have already signed up in the past year.
It was agreed that other Muslim religious leaders would speak on the matter in community and cultural centers in Arab towns and villages.