Israel – Chief Rabbi Allows Organ Donations of Brain Dead Soccer Player


    Israel – Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar told the family of brain-dead soccer icon Avi Cohen it can donate his organs to save lives before disconnecting life-support systems.

    The family of Cohen, who was critically injured in an accident while riding his motorcycle last week, consulted with Rabbi Amar after a Health Ministry health committee confirmed on Tuesday that Cohen was brain-dead.

    “There is no choice other than to say that he has passed away,” said the former soccer star’s son Tamir. “This is the situation, and we thank all of the People of Israel for their help. I ask everyone to give us a bit of peace and quiet as we try to absorb what happened.”

    Cohen, 54, played in Israel and also was the first Israeli to play for an English soccer team, having helped Liverpool retains its title as national champions in 1979.

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    1. accorcing to most poskim, removing organs from a brain-dead person is Retzicha.
      rabbi amar just proved that he’s here to represent the interest of secular israelies and not torah abiding jews

      • If you remember the case of Motl brody Z”L, he is not considered dead when just brain dead al pi halucha. we can assum that it was the will of the soccer player to be an organ donor. no?

        • what about moti brody z”l? and you write that one isn’t considered dead when brain dead, that’s exactly what i’m saying: that he’s still alive and anbody doing anything that brings his death closer is a Rotzeach.
          it makes no difference if this was his will or not. the person who removes the organ is a Rotzeach.

          • Achrei babim lehatos only applies within a particular Bais Din which is hearing a particular case. That rule doesnt mean that a poll should decide how a Rav should paskin for people asking him a sheila.

          • Reb Yona:
            “Acharei Rabim LeHattos” refers to how the Sanhedrin, when ruling as one authoritative body, is to function. It has nothing to do with how an individual posek is supposed to work.
            קעה: לנטות אחרי רבים אם תהיה מחלוקת בין הסנהדרין בדינין שנ’ אחרי רבים להטות.
            מנין המצוות לרמב”ם

      • “most” poskim???? Who are you referring to? Many reputable poskim have an understanding that brain dead = death. Those organs will now save many individuals. And the poskim I am referring to – they are not “secular”. I know many cases of extremely Frum yiddin who were given the go ahead to donate organs.

      • to #1 who is “Most pokim”??
        Rav Amar is a Posek in his right and he must give his own opinion as to his understanding of Halacha.
        “that he’s here to represent the interest of secular israelies “””
        the comment can be added to a long list of reasons of why Mashiach is still at the entrance of Rome

      • You don’t ask shilah’s of “most poskim”. You ask a shilah of an individual rabbi. The family chose Rabbi Amar, a very respected talmid chacham and posek. They are now obligated to follow his psak and not that of some anonymous blog commenter.

        • There are some sheialos that only a gudol hador could pasken and one can’t just ask any rov, the poskim that the vast majority of frum yiden relay on are Rav Vosner and Rav Eliyashiv shlita, they have paskend that this is “retzicha” all the gedolim of late including R’ Moshe Feinstein z”l and the Minchas Yizchock have paskend the same, Rav Amar can’t overule them

          • This is very misleading. Most of the frum physicians I know in America follow Rav Tendler, who agrees with Rav Amar. Both are poskim who are of the stature to disagree with Rav Elyashiv and Rav Vosner. Furthermore, Rav Tendler is also a biology professor with a PhD so he knows the science as well.

      • I know someone who’s brother died and he was brain dead, as in failing the apnea test (the exact definition matters here obviously, it wasn’t based on brain scans) and R. Dovid Feinstein paskened that he was dead and needed to be buried. His heart was still beating.

        Organ donation is a whole other kettle of fish (that family didn’t donate his organs, I don’t know what they asked about it), but in terms of Retzicha, even poskim who are not politically constrained have agreed that brain death can be death. (I was surprised when I heard about it too).

      • This is an interesting angle. If someone can donate to help a living person, while still alive, why can’t such an organ be taken when the person is brain dead?

        An answer might be that when taken from a living person, it will not kill him. The response to that is that the other person is already dead, and nothing done will “kill” him.

        Perhaps the middle approach is that one can only take an organ that will allow the brain dead person to keep on living?

    2. R’ Wosner and R’ Elyashiv have both said that Halachik Death is when the heart stops and harvesting a brain-dead person’s organs brings death closer and IS Retzicha. The Shulchan Aruch also alludes to this and R’ Amar’s Psak, whether he is capitulating to the “Medina” or not is definitely puzzling and he should give a public explanation in order to put the naysayers to rest.

      • Not puzzing at all. This issue has been extensively discussed in the halachic literature; you might want to read it. R’Amar is a posek and is entitled to pasken differently from R’Wosner and R’Elyashiv. He owes none of us any explanation, especially not an anonymous blog commenter.

      • While your tempestuous comment was certainly more deferential than that of the audacious, brassbound number 1, it would be certainly more judgmatic of you to take the avenue of the Rishonim, when caught in between a machlokes of their superiors, by simply differing, in saying ‘oomee yachnis es rosho ben hehorim hagedolim’. For you to adjudicate the correctness of Rabbi Amar’s statement, based upon your hearsay of R Wosner and R’ Elyashiv’s psak, or even if they did say what you purport they said, is definitely impudent on your part. Especially to insinuate that he owes the public an explanation. When the public will spend the amount of years learing, as he did, and then attend the shiuring that he gives, then and only then, and only perhaps, will your commments be percieved as less impertinent.

    3. The issue of whether “brain death” constitutes death in terms of halacha is perhaps the most complex–and controversial–issue in Jewish medical ethics.

      The great majority of major rabbinic authorities have not accepted brain death, whether defined as involving the whole brain or simply the brainstem. A minority of such rabbis have accepted a determination of “brain death” by physicians as sufficient to constitute death — which would in many cases presumably permit removal of organs such as the heart.

      The issue is too complex for a full discussion here, but suffice it to say that after a four-year investigation and analysis, the halacha committee of the Rabbinical Council of America did not favor the RCA continuing to define “brain death” as “the criterion” for death. (A copy of their document, meant for internal use only, has been posted on the internet.)

    4. I would like to know when hearing a ruling, which medical experts were consulted and how many different opinions were taken into account and what specialty they are practicing in when giving expert opinion to the Rabbonim. This information would be very helpful to know especially in this case (on both sides) since this ruling deals with newer concepts in medicine.
      This is position he took is something that is universally accepted by medical ethicist. I am curious what current medical experts the other side has spoken to about this issue.

    5. This is an intriguing topic, the likes of which will only become more heated as medical science discovers more ways to prolong life beyond a person’s capacity to survive. Hard decisions to be made as “life” becomes more and more artificially malleable. The men who take on the task of determination of modern issues using Halacha, are never going to satisfy all the people. Their issue is truly with G-d.

      • A person who is brain dead can not breathe on their own because breathing is controlled by the brain. A brain dead person is only kept alive via ventilation machines and if those machines were removed (the term used is “pulling the plug”) life as we know it is terminated.

    6. With all due respect and apologies to Rav Amar, shlitah, No. 26 is absolutely correct. Reb Moshe zt”l (who was a universally recognized Gadol Hador and Posek) repeatedly stressed that the cessation of breating was death in Halacha. The criterian is the strands of a feather against the nostril. If the strands move, the person is alive, if not – the person is dead and must be buried.
      The question inherent in this discussion is whether the person could breathe on his own or is assisted. If assisted, when can a breathing machine (medical ventilator) be removed?

    7. I’d just like to ask all the tzadikim here who don’t accept brain death if they’d *accept* an organ transplant. Because if so, you’re a party to retzicha.

      “the poskim that the vast majority of frum yiden relay on are Rav Vosner and Rav Eliyashiv shlita”

      Actually, the vast majority of “frum yiden” today are Modern Orthodox/ Dati Leumi who have their own poskim, not these two. The vast majority of the rest of “frum yidden” are Chassidim who also have their own poskim.

    8. Poster #30 asks a good question. It’s one thing to refuse to donate organs because you believe that brain death is not halachic death. However, why would it then be ok to receive organs, as you’d be murdering a person to obtain the organs (and don’t argue that it’s not direct…an organ will not be harvested for transplant until an identifiable match is found, making the connection direct). To receive organs but not donate is ethically repugnant and halachically problematic.

    9. sA few points:

      1) I would NOT recommend the HODS website. Read the RCA paper for starters HODS is an advocacy group, aimed at encouraging organ ‘donation.’

      2) I am not aware of any survey having been done with regard to which authority is followed by most orthodox Jewish physicians–nor is that relevant. There are two viewpoints on this matter. Rabbi Herschel Shachter of Y.U. has stated multiple times that this is a matter of life and death for the ‘donor’ (i.e. if he is considered alive, removing his vital organs will kill him), and hence he cannot endorse organ removal from a ‘brain dead’ individual.

      3) The issue of defining death is not solely a medical issue, so whether more doctors follow this rabbi or that rabbi is not the main issue. As Dr. Abraham Steinberg has pointed out, there is a somewhat arbitrary decision point as to when death has been declared. Many rabbinic authorities are not willing to define that point as being when the brainstem is irreversibly non-functional (‘dead’) or most or even all of the brain is presumably ‘dead.’ These include the great majority of the leading rabbinic sages of our generation.

    10. What I wonder, is how can so many people have opinions on this when they have no details?

      Rav Amar is a Gadol. I am certain that he had all of the facts (meaning he did not read a condensed version in a newspaper article), and made a decision based on his complete knowledge of the situation.

      While I would love to know how he came to his decision, I 100% understand that I have a surface-level understanding of this specific situation. He did not say that this is now the practice for EVERYONE. He said, after evaluating this PARTICULAR case, that it was permissible and there are many reliable poskim who hold that brain-death is death anyway. It is not like this particular decision came out of left field. Other poskim have made similar decisions in the past.


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