Chinese TV airs Elyashiv's opposition to organ harvesting

Conference at Beilinson to discuss Israeli exploitation of Chinese organ trafficking.

rabbi elyashiv 88 (photo credit: )
rabbi elyashiv 88
(photo credit: )
A Chinese-language international TV station called New Tang Dynasty TV (NTDTV) recently broadcast a news item on Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv's adamant prohibition of Jews deriving any benefit from Chinese organ harvesting, even in life-threatening situations. Elyashiv, the most respected halachic authority among haredi Lithuanian Jewry, ruled over a month ago that it was forbidden to use organs harvested from members of the Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that is being persecuted by the Chinese Communist regime. Although Elyashiv did not mention the Falun Gong by name, he said it was a desecration of God's name for Jews to exploit the moral corruption of the Chinese regime, which kills political prisoners with the aim of turning a profit by selling their heart, kidney, lungs and other organs. NTDTV, which calls itself "one of the few sources of uncensored news for the Chinese people," thought its hundreds of millions of viewers would be interested in learning what Judaism has to say about organ trafficking. Elyashiv's halachic opinion was voiced in response to a question posed by a Jewish doctor. The doctor asked him if he could accompany his Jewish patient to China for the organ transplant. The doctor explained to the nonagenarian rabbi that the Chinese authorities had set up detention camps for thousands of members of the Falun Gong, who are considered enemies of the state. The lives of these detainees were valueless in the eyes of the Chinese authorities, he said. However, the Chinese quickly realized that they could turn a quick profit from trafficking in the organs of the Falan Gong prisoners. During a conference of Lev Le'achim, an organization that encourages secular Jews to embrace Orthodoxy, Rabbi Yitzhak Zilverstein, the son-in-law of Elyashiv and an expert in Jewish medical ethics, related his father-in-law's answer to the doctor's question. "It is a desecration of God's name to use organs taken from political prisoners," said Zilverstein in the name of Elyashiv. "Even in life-threatening cases it is forbidden to receive treatment, especially the chosen people, the Jewish people, who are commanded 'do not murder.' They must not travel to China to get an organ transplant." Other rabbis who have come out against using Chinese organs include Menahem Porush, former Agudat Yisrael MK; Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva; and Yuval Cherlow, one of the heads of the Petah Tikva Hesder Yeshiva and rabbis of the Sanhedrin, a revival of the ancient Jewish governing body. According to Ro'i Bar-Ilan, an Israeli representative of the Falun Gong, all Israeli health funds suspended their funding of organ transplants in China. Some private insurance companies still fund Chinese organ transplants. Dr. Jacob Levee, director of the heart transplant unit at Sheba Medical Center, put the figure since 2004 at 200-300 kidney transplants performed on Israelis in China, 20 heart transplants and 10 liver transplants. In Israel there is no legislation prohibiting organ transplants. NTDTV in Israel commented that the TV station, which is broadcast from New York via satellite to China, has used its media to arouse public outrage against the organ harvesting and persecution of Falun Gong. Falun Gong is a spiritual movement that advocates adhering to three principle traits: truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. Adherents try to constantly scrutinize their behavior in an attempt to act in accordance with these three traits. In addition, five meditations are used. The movement began in China in 1992 with the initial encouragement of the Chinese authorities. But in 1999 Falun Gong was outlawed after the Chinese authorities discovered that the movement was amazingly successful, with between 70 million and 100 million adherents. Apparently the Chinese authorities saw it as a threat to the state.