London – Frustration after Beth Din Stalls Organ Donation Drive


    Photo by: Judah S. HarrisLondon – The founder of a campaign to encourage Orthodox Jews to carry organ donor cards has voiced frustration at the time taken by the Chief Rabbi to issue new guidelines on the subject.

    Lord Sacks’s office said its views on organ donation would be available before Rosh Hashanah.

    But Robert Berman, who runs the Halachic Organ Donor Society (Hods), said he had been led to believe that the policy was due out last August.

    Mr Berman, who lives in Jerusalem, said that after meeting the Chief Rabbi in March 2009, he had agreed not to lecture on organ donation in the UK until the Chief Rabbi and the London Beth Din decided their position in the summer.

    He said: “I’m puzzled as to why it would take 16 months and counting for the Chief Rabbinate of England to review the halachic and medical issues surrounding organ donation.”

    Arguing there had been no major new developments on organ donation in medicine or Jewish law over the past decade, he declared: “I hope this review will not drag on for years, as I fear it will. This issue is of an urgent life-saving nature and should be given priority.”

    Two hundred rabbis from Israel, the USA and elsewhere support the carrying of the Hods card.

    While some rabbis still insist on the traditional principle that death takes place only when the heart stops beating, increasingly more rabbinic authorities, including Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, have begun to accept brain-stem death as legitimate.

    A spokesman for the Office of the Chief Rabbi said for the past 12 months, the London Beth Din had been engaged “in careful consideration” of organ donations and living wills.

    Follow VosIzNeias For Breaking News Updates is here to help you manage your home without the stress. Go to for recipes, menu planners, kids' activities, and more.


        • wrong

          with medical technology that we have today that they did not have in previous generations rabbais can access and many do that brain stem dead is dead. as a matter of fact it is more dead than heart stoppage. Many people have been revived after their heart stopped. Not one person has ever been revived after bran stem death

        • But a decision to forbid it will lead to yidden dying; the question is whether those deaths will be necessary or unnecessary. If the halacha is that the donation is not allowed, then the death that will be caused is necessary, and that’s that. אין חכמה ואין עצה ואין תבונה נגד ה׳. But if it the halacha is really that it should be allowed, and a mistaken psak causes it to be forbidden, then the would-be recipient’s death is unnecessary, and will rest on the head of the rov who paskened too hastily or too cautiously. It’s dinei nefoshos either way, which is why it’s such a delicate matter. I don’t envy those who have to pasken this; I can only pray that they have siyata dishmaya, and then respect whatever psak they come up with.

      • Or it could prevent a murder from being committed. This is a difficult subject, and needs due deliberation; הוו מתונים בדין. You wouldn’t want the Chief Rabbi to rush into judgment, especially if you don’t know whether the psak would go for you or against you.

    1. I always thought it was ossur, what’s the sudden reasoning that it is ok? Does a yids body not require burial and opposed to be sliced upon and things being wrenched out? Would organs only help other yidden or also arabs and nazis?

        • The question is if a remote possibility of pikuach nefesh is.

          And based on whom the average recipient is, is there even a miyut hanikur of hlachic pikuach nefesh.
          R’ Sacks is hardly what one would call Chareidi, he is who the MO looked to for an alternative to ArtScroll siddur.

          Apparently, even according to MO standards there is a significant concern with signing organ donor cards. I suspect he knows quite a bit more than you, if you can handle that thought.

          • A remote possibility of P”N, i.e. there is no חולה לפנינו, is not enough. But don’t be so quick to decide that it’s a miut. Is the recipient considered פריש or קבוע ? If he is קבוע then we say כל קבוע כמחצה על מחצה

            • Doesn’t matter. The recipient must exist at the time that the organ is harvested, not at the time he signs the card. Signing a card is meaningless; for pikuach nefesh we could take an organ without a card too, just as one may steal for pikuach nefesh.

      • Pikuach nefesh certainly overrides the mitzvah of kevurah and the issur of nivul hameis. If the person is definitely dead, and there is a yid who needs his organs to survive, then there is no question that we may take them. But if he’s still alive then there is no way in the world to permit it. And the question of whether someone is dead or alive is for rabbonim alone to decide, after hearing expert testimony as to the facts of the case, based on their understanding of the sources in the gemoro.

    2. Organ donation poses many halachic challenges.

      For one, death of the donor must be confirmed. The reason why it is challenging is because most (not all) poskim require Cardiac death to declare the person dead. While cardiac death is easy enough to verify (no heart sounds,no pulse, flat line EKG) procurement of organs from a patient with no vital signs (pulse, blood pressure) yields very poor quality organs. The heart and Liver are very sensitive to decreases in blood flow as is common in cardiac arrest. And while a kidney may survive up to 24 (48) hours with diminished blood flow. A heart begins to infarct(die) within minutes and liver within a few hours.

      Secondly, if one follows the opinion of some poskim who only require brain STEM death, to declare a person dead, the procurement of a (beating) heart is possible (permissible?). However, determination of brain (stem) death is more involved and involves more complex tests. In addittion if there is any doubt of the patient’s status at that critical state (Gosses), removing a vital organ: liver or heart can certainly hasten the person’s death (certainly removing the heart)


    3. For starters, this publicilty campaign itself indicates he has little regard for halachah.

      As for the halachic issue: Basically, all poskim allow organ donations under certain circumstances. This organization supports organ donation as a general policy.

      Why don’t you go to th HODS website. You’ll see the many rabbis and the several poskim who agree with this approach, and you can watch an interview with Rav Dovid Feinstein — and you will understand why he does not support this approach.

      • Exactly. Watch that interview and you will see why so many people have a problem with this organisation. They put up a whole array of pictures of rabbonim and poskim, and make it appear that all those people support them, when in fact many of them don’t.

    4. …another issue to consider, is the fact that Nivul HaMes, although prohibited may have certain exceptions.

      For example autopsies may be performed in a case of an unknown disease whose result might save lives. Or in the case of Pikuach Nefesh where an organ procured from a Deceased person may be used, in the here and now, to save another person (jew’s) life.
      As a matter of policy if one carries an organ donor card, one cannot guarantee or know to whom the organs will be sent.

      An interesting point to ponder is the fact that in countries where socialized medicine is the norm, there are always (government) efforts to make organs available for the general population. There was an initiative in Israel a few months ago (reported on VIN), and now in England. As the article mentions there is a movement amongs some ‘Rabbis’ to take on a more lenient approach on the criteria and definition of death; -all with the result of fascilitating organ procurement and donation.

      Always be wary of socialized medicine. Initially they offer freebies but eventually they aim to control lifestyle and limit choice…tread carefully.

      • “autopsies may be performed in a case of an unknown disease whose result might save lives”

        Actually, that is not true, unless there is a חולה לפנינו, some identifiable person with the same disease whose life may be saved by this research. If the research is merely to find a cure in case the disease is ever diagnosed in the future then the autopsy is *not* permitted, and when that hypothetical future patient dies for lack of a cure that’s very sad but not important enough to justify nivul hameis now.

    5. But as I said above:

      “For example autopsies may be performed in a case of an unknown disease whose result might save lives. Or in the case of Pikuach Nefesh where an organ procured from a Deceased person may be used, ‘in the here and now’, to save another person (jew’s) life.”

    6. This has nothing to do with nivul ha-meit which is permissible for a holeh lefaneinu (as per Noda bi-Yehudah and Hatam Sofer).

      When the organ is removed, there is most certainly a holeh lefaneinu.

      The issue is whether or not the person from whom the organ is taken is dead, or whether removing the organ caused the person’s death. You cannot kill one person to save another, even if one is really sick and about to die.

      R. Moshe Feinstein, R. Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach, R. Elyashiv, R. Yitzhak Weiss, R. Wosner and almost anybody else worth his salt says that ‘brain dead’ patients are completely alive. So do most American bioethicists, by the way.

      You can’t take their organs because you can’t kill people. It’s quite simple actually.


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here