(photo credit: Michael Ainsworth/Dallas Morning News/MCT)
A new initiative designed to raise the number of people signing up for organ
donation cards has been formally approved by Tzohar, the religious- Zionist
Restrictions on rabbis from conducting weddings removed
In a meeting last week at Shaare Zedek Medical Center
in Jerusalem, 40 rabbis from the organization voted to approve a new organ donor
card and framework which seeks to reduce any concerns potential religious organ
donors may have that their organs will be harvested in a manner in keeping with
“We want to encourage Israeli society to acknowledge and
embrace the importance of saving someone else’s life,” Tzohar chairman Rabbi
David Stav told The Jerusalem Post
on Sunday. “We also believe that it is
immoral to be willing to accept organs from others while at the same time not be
willing to donate your own organs if such circumstances should
Currently, the “Edi” organ donor card is the only such system in
use in the country and is issued by the National Center for Transplants and
authorized by the Ministry of Health. According to Tzohar however, only 10
percent of the adult population have signed up for the card.
“Bilvavi” framework seeks to assuage the doubts of potential donors, thereby
increasing the number of people volunteering for organ donation, by guaranteeing
to them and their families that transplants will be carried out according to
Jewish law, specifically that brain death will be firmly established by a doctor
with knowledge of the pertinent laws, before organs are removed.
death was established by the most respected arbiter of Jewish law of recent
times, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, to be the relevant criterion for declaring death,
although he stipulated that tests be conducted to confirm.
purpose, an organization called Arevim, comprising more than 30 doctors around
the country competent in the Jewish laws regarding the issue, was set
Director of the Bilvavi system, Haim Falk, told the Post that being a
signatory to the new system will mean that a doctor from Arevim will be present
when the time of death is pronounced to provide an extra guarantee that any
transplants will be in accordance with Jewish law.
Rabbi Stav said that
one of the main reasons for Israel’s low rate of organ donation was because of
religious concerns, most often completely unfounded.
“Many people are not
willing to become organ donors because of religious sentiments, although these
are not people that are necessarily observant,” he said. “It’s just that
regarding the matter of death, people become more religious than the religion
Opposition has been expressed to the new Bilvavi card by
members of the National Center for Transplants, specifically that the
establishment of an alternative framework may deter secular people from signing
up even for the current system.
Stav states that it is for this reason
that Tzohar and Bilvavi are recommending the new card specifically for people
who have not signed up for the “Edi card, and that the most important thing is
not which system to register with, but simply to register as an organ
There are three halachic concerns regarding organ donation: a
prohibition against desecrating a corpse; delaying burial; and deriving any kind
of benefit from a corpse. Most rabbis today accept that the life-saving
possibilities made possible by organ donation outweigh these concerns.