Edah Haredit promotes 'anti-donor' card

New initiative seeks to prevent organ donation by distributing cards stating "no permission."

organ transplant (photo credit: Courtesy)
organ transplant
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In the coming days, the Edah Haredit, an umbrella organization for some of the most zealous ultra-Orthodox rabbis, will launch a campaign against organ transplants. What some religious circles see as a mitzva to save the life of an organ recipient, the Edah Haredit sees as murder. "Our rabbis believe that removing a person's vital organs before pulmonary failure, even after brain death, is tantamount to manslaughter," said Shmuel Poppenheim, a spokesman for the Edah. A membership card called "The Card of Life" will be distributed to Edah Haredit followers, and is to be carried at all times. The card contains a declaration that the holder refuses to donate any organs. Poppenheim said the card included a stipulation that any questions regarding the determination of the death of the cardholder must be decided by Edah rabbis. The campaign is a reaction to recent legislation that permits the removal of organs after a certain phase of brain death. Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar initially supported the new law, but he later backtracked under haredi pressure. In his revised opinion Amar said that while brain death was sufficient for determining clinical death, it was not enough to permit the removal of organs unless an approved rabbi said so. MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), who drafted the new law, said there had been a sharp rise in organ transplants, in part thanks to his legislation. "In the first half of last year there were 80 organ transplants performed after death, compared to 146 in the first half of this year," Schneller said. "More than 50,000 people have become organ donation cardholders so far this year." Poppenheim said the strictures governing the removal of organs were applicable to Jews, not to non-Jews. "Non-Jews are not as concerned with the sanctity of life as are Jews," Poppenheim said. "Consequently, they are more lenient regarding the removal of organs. We often advise people who need a transplant to go abroad. That way you don't run into as many problems."