Majority of Israelis would be willing to donate organs, study finds

The Israeli public's willingness to donate organs is now at 60%. The rest are mainly held back by the religious factor.

Hands holding green organ transplant awareness ribbon (illustrative). (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Hands holding green organ transplant awareness ribbon (illustrative).
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

A new study by Israel Transplant has found that the public’s stated willingness to donate organs has increased from 42% in 1999 to 60% today. 

But the rest are held back from such a decision mainly by the “religious factor” even though Jewish and Muslim law does not prohibit it and may also encourage it (this reason given by 48%); the desire to be buried intact (36%); the fear of mutilation of the body (30%), of causing suffering and pain to the deceased (20%); the “evil eye” (19%); and a lack of confidence that the doctors would do everything to save the brain-dead donor (12%).

The study, entitled “The Willingness to Donate Organs in Israel 1997-2022” and published in the latest issue of the Hebrew-language journal of the Israel Medical Association, Harefuah

Why are Israelis more willing to become organ donors?

Israel Transplant, directed by Dr. Tamar Ashkenazi, was established by the government 26 years ago, with each hospital in the country working to find candidates for organ donation, coordinate tests to determine brain death and approach the family to donate organs, while providing them with emotional and other support. 

Families are encouraged to donate organs by the realization that they will save lives, that they will get preference to receive organs if they need a transplant, and the belief that their loved one (45% were motivated by this) would “continue to live on” in someone else’s body. 

Adi organ donor card 311 (credit: courtesy)
Adi organ donor card 311 (credit: courtesy)

Ashkenazi’s marketing strategy was to transform the act of contributing from the heroic and rare to the normative, right thing to do. Religious centers were established for Jews and Muslims; an information campaign was created on the determination of brain death; a model was developed in the hospitals for approaching the family; and training simulations were carried out. In addition, signatures on the ADI (willingness to donate) card were made accessible in accordance with technological advances. 

The number of Israelis who obtained an ADI card rose by 700,000 between 2005 and 2017, Israel Transplant said. In 2012, those with a donor card in their wallets obtained the right of way in getting an organ themselves if they needed it. 

In recent years, nonprofit organizations like Matnat Haim and Tormim Haim have been encouraging living kidney donation, making Israel the world’s leader in such transplantation. 

The medical journal’s entire May issue was dedicated to organ transplantation. One article written by doctors at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva looked at robotic-assistant transplantation, a minimally invasive method that reduces recovery time and raised survival rate. 

Another article by physicians at Beilinson – which is one of the country’s leading organ transplant centers – found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, it continued to perform operations with a relatively low morbidity and death rate among recipients.