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Organ Donations Essay

1531 words - 7 pages

The Talmud discusses a variety of halachic issues that pertain to the recipient of the organ. As stated earlier, the National Waiting List selects the recipient of an available organ based on the similarity of blood and tissue types, the size of the available organ, the seriousness of the patient’s illness, the length of time the recipient already spent on the waiting list and the physical distance between the donor and the transplant candidate (Organ Donation and Transplantation). Jewish law, however, gives some insight into what the order of precedence ought to be. The Mishnah and the Talmud document lengthy debates regarding this question. Many discuss which gender takes precedence in a ...view middle of the document...

Therefore, rabbis have questioned the status of a patient during the time of a transplant procedure, and whether or not the doctor is guilty of murder in performing the surgery (Rosner 160).
The HOD Society answers the many of the abovementioned halachic issues with one all-encompassing argument. Pikuach nefesh (lit. saving lives) is a term used to describe the positive commandment to save the life of a fellow man. This commandment is so inflexible that it overrides most other commandments in the Bible, including the Sabbath, another stringent commandment. The Babylonian Talmud explains that although it is prohibited to take medicine on the Sabbath (Shabbat, 53b), one may give medicine to a sick person in order to save his life. Additionally, one is required to desecrate the laws of Sabbath by boiling water, breaking down walls and extinguishing fires in order to save a person in danger. The Talmud explains that one may not wait to administer medical attention to a sick person in an attempt to avoid desecrating the Sabbath (Yoma 84b).
Rosner infers from the Talmud that because pikuach nefesh overrides the Sabbath, it also supersedes the negative commandments of benefiting from the dead, mutilating the dead, delaying the burial of the dead and ritual defilement of priests (Rosner 168). HODS elaborates that the prohibitions that give dignity to the deceased are in place because the body was the host of a life. Saving lives takes precedence over keeping the dignity of a cadaver because “by saving a life, one is giving utmost respect and dignity to the human body.” This statement is based on the Talmud which states, "Save one life and it is as if you have saved the entire world" (Sanhedrin 4:5). Based on this information, the HOD Society concludes that one should agree to donate his organs post-mortem if his organs are eligible (Issues).
Current medical specialists and Orthodox Jewish rabbis have differing opinions concerning the precise moment of death. According to Suffolk County Community College, death is determined either with the cessation of the circulatory and respiratory¬ systems or with the irreversible termination of the function of the brain (Vetch). The Organ Donor website, a project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, declares that people who are “brain dead” are viable organ donors. Brain death occurs when the cells of the brain die due to lack of a sufficient supply of oxygen, and the brain is rendered “totally and irreversibly non-functional.” (Organ Donation and Brain Death) Because brain-dead persons are legally considered dead, federal law dictates that with permission from the donor’s family, the allegedly deceased may be used for organ procurement (Troug, Miller and Halpern). This medical view of the precise moment of death is not in alignment with that of modern day rabbis.
There is controversy as well among Orthodox Jewish rabbis. Numerous rabbis declare that the Torah does not agree that brain death is...

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