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Medicine Science

In Israel, Potential Organ Donors Could Jump the Queue 582

laron writes "In Israel, a new law is in the making: Holders of donor cards and their families would get preference if they should need an organ for themselves. Apparently this initiative faces resistance from Orthodox rabbis, who hold that organ donation is against religious law. Jacob Lavee, director of the heart transplant unit at Israel's Sheba Medical Center, and one of the draftees of this new law, hopes that a broader pool of organs will ultimately benefit everyone, but acknowledges that one of his primary motivations is 'to prevent free riders.' (Apparently receiving an organ is OK under religious law.)"
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In Israel, Potential Organ Donors Could Jump the Queue

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:30AM (#31478646)

    Israel has various religious sub-groups, and it's only in the extreme orthodox group (Haredim) that organ donation is problematic. In the moderate orthodox community some rabbis have suggested that it's an obligation to sign the donation card.

  • by miasmatic ( 740281 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:41AM (#31478684)
    Organ donation is NOT always against Jewish law (Halacha). In fact there is almost always a way that it is totally fine and even further, there are interpretations that suggest that not being an organ donor is a violation of Halacha! Please see [] for a very good observant Jewish organization that seeks to make more orthodox Jews organ donors.
  • some inaccuracies (Score:2, Informative)

    by MajSh ( 1139279 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:41AM (#31478686)
    Organ donation doesn't conflict with the Jewish religion, in fact there is a religious law that authorizes it under few minor limitations. Also, the law is widely supported by most Israelis, there's a very small orthodox minority that doesn't support it because the public they represent has a low percentage of organ donor card holders and not due to a conflict with religion.
  • by davidl71 ( 1767514 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:43AM (#31478696)
    Most Orthodox Rabbis are not against organ transplants. They disagree about the determination of death. []
  • Re:Opt-out (Score:4, Informative)

    by Animaether ( 411575 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:48AM (#31478726) Journal

    I never understood why organ donation is opt-in rather than opt-out.

    It's a good question - good luck getting any answers, though.

    This has been playing in The Netherlands for a long time now - seems to pop up every few years.

    In 1998 the centralized 'donor register' was started. People can indicate that they want to be a donor, what bits and pieces, that sort of thing.. or indicate that they do -not- want to be a donor. So it's opt-in - by default, if you're not registered / don't have aything written down in your will, your next of kin may decide (in which case 75% of the decisions on this are made against donating organs from the deceased).
    In 2002 the 'minister of health' said there would be no change for at least 2 years, after 2/3rds of the government decisionmakers decided against an opt-out system.
    In 2005, another voting round was held... 78 against, 68 -for- an opt-out system.
    I think there was another debate in 2008 or early 2009 but can't find a reference now.

    None of the press articles on these state why they were against an opt-out system, though. Only statements such as being in favor of promoting becoming a donor, or at least registering - regardless of your choice.

    I'm guessing it's got to do with the taboo on death that still lingers - probably even moreso in the U.S.

    Either that or they fear that somebody would find out that you actively said "no, you can't take my organs", and then couple this to other databases / provisions / label you a cold, selfish, heartless (can't donate that, then!) bastard, etc.

    I'm all for opt-out, with parents/guardians decision up to age 12, at which point anybody can decide for themselves, and at younger ages if the child can demonstrate that they do indeed know what they are deciding on, the consequences, etc. should it come to it that the parent(s)/guardian(s) disagree with the child.
    ( My Sister's Keeper was an interesting, albeit superficial, exploration of that theme )

  • Orthodox rabbis? (Score:2, Informative)

    by slimjim8094 ( 941042 ) <slashdot3@just[ ... t ['con' in gap]> on Monday March 15, 2010 @03:06AM (#31478782)

    Orthodox Judaism considers it obligatory if it will save a life, as long as the donor is considered dead as defined by Jewish law (from Wikipedia)

    What gives? Can anyone shed light on this?

  • by Paradigm_Complex ( 968558 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @03:24AM (#31478836)
    I realize you meant that as a joke, but in case anyone was curious it is okay under Jewish law (as interpreted by most Jews, reform conservative and most orthodox) to receive something along those lines. For the most part, if it's for medical purposes, pork is fine. Saving a life takes precedence here.
  • Re:Orthodox rabbis? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 15, 2010 @03:40AM (#31478906)

    The primary issue surrounds heart donation, which must be done when the heart is still beating. Some Orthodox authorities consider the continued beating of the heart to constitute life, and for this reason they prohibit heart donations. Others accept the more widely held position that cessation of brain function constitutes death, this makes it possible to donate the heart after the brain has died but while it is still beating.
    Donation of most other organs can take place even after the heart has stopped beating, that is more widely accepted by many orthodox rabbis.

    There's alot of literature about this issue at

    It is certainly hypocritical to refuse to donate but want to receive. I think this legislation is brilliant because it makes people live with the consequences of their action or inaction.

  • by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @03:44AM (#31478924) Homepage Journal

    Click here for a list of state agencies that handle organ donation:
    It only takes about 30 seconds to register online.

  • Re:Orthodox rabbis? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 15, 2010 @03:54AM (#31478978)

    Under Jewish (Orthodox) Law you are only allowed to donate body parts that will save a life. So a heart is OK, but a cornea is not. So on the Israeli donor form, you tick the boxes of which body parts you are prepared to donate

  • Re:awesome (Score:3, Informative)

    by chrb ( 1083577 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @04:08AM (#31479054)

    Plenty of orthodox rabbis also say donating is permissible (as far as I've heard from members of the New York ultra-orthodox contingent)

    It has also been argued that trafficking in human organs on the black market [] and laundering the money [] is also religiously permitted (when it saves lives, apparently - the lucrative profits are completely coincidental)...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 15, 2010 @04:20AM (#31479124)

    Ha, Troll, you say.

    here [] and here [].

    While they don't want to emphasize the point, the latter reference recommends: "However, because of some dissenting Halachic rulers, it is advised to consult with a rabbi before making a decision."

  • by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @04:45AM (#31479242) Homepage Journal

    Consult your local Rabbi. Rabbis love to discuss this sort of thing at length and can probably give you a great answer. I don't agree with Israel's politics, but Judaism is actually a very well reasoned religion and have revised their decisions on various things in modern times such as use of electricity on the sabbath, etc. They actually publish these decisions, and I'm sure an actual Jew will chime in here with the name of this collection of published "decisions" that you can then refer to regarding organ donation. I'm willing to bet it falls in the same "vein" as Tattooed Jews can't be buried in a formal Jewish cemetery. As I understand it, (again, someone feel free to jump in here and correct me) man is created in God's image, therefore is as close to perfection as you can already make it (i.e. body is temple, etc). To alter your body (tattoos, organ donations) is to desecrate it (the temple of God) is to disrespect God. So you could donate your organs, but you couldn't be buried in a Jewish cemetery, which as far as I can tell is their form of excommunication.

  • Re:Hey guise (Score:5, Informative)

    by ars ( 79600 ) <{moc.lmgsd} {ta} {2dssa}> on Monday March 15, 2010 @04:54AM (#31479282) Homepage

    I posted this before, but here it is again:

    Jews do not believe it's wrong to donate. What they believe is that, as long as a persons heart is beating they are alive.

    Meaning: They believe it's wrong to murder someone to harvest organs.

    Others believe that after brain death the person is dead, and it's not murder.

    The argument is not over organ donation, which even the strictest rabbi agrees with.

    The argument is over the definition of death, since most organ donation are done after brain, but not cardiac, death.

  • Re:Opt-out (Score:3, Informative)

    by houghi ( 78078 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @04:59AM (#31479308)

    Belgium has an opt-out. This results in sometimes people moarning in front of empty graves or people not knowing that their loved ones are cut to pieces. Also next of kin deciding not to do it, even though that is against the law.

    The advantage is that there is an opt-out law. The disadvantage is that many people are not aware of it and it is seldom discussed.

  • Re:Hey guise (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @05:48AM (#31479608) Journal
    > Well - there is evidence that they had engineering skills in Egypt that we can't equal today.
    > Try hiring a construction firm to build some of those pyramids. Go for it.

    They'll laugh at you, not because they can't build them. But because you're not going to be able to afford it.

    You're not the Pharaoh after all - the supreme absolute ruler of the nation.

    Or Bill Gates or any of those extremely rich billionaires (who'd have the $$$ for it, but they clearly have different priorities).

    A Nimitz class aircraft carrier is pretty much in the same order of magnitude in size, and far more complicated and sophisticated.
  • Re:Sounds fair (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bartab ( 233395 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @05:49AM (#31479616)

    Two points:

    1) Cancers are almost never 'cured' by transplantation. If your organ is failing due to a cancer, be prepared to die regardless of the reason for the cancer. This is largely because the new organ would almost certainly also be a loss.

    2) At least in the US, Children are already at the top of the list.

  • by priegog ( 1291820 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @06:11AM (#31479744)
    I don't know whether the laws over there (I'm european) are so screwed up that doctors would actually get to choose wheter to harvest someone's organs or not, but I really hope you've got it all completely wrong. In my country, the law says that EVERYONE is an organ donor unless you actively opt-out. Families do get to refuse, I think. But the point is no doctors' god complex will have ANYTHING to do with it (I'm a doctor BTW, you insensitive clod!). And even on the RARE cases that fall in a legal grey area, the hospital's ethics commitee will be summoned to discuss the matter and come up with the best possible solution for all parties involved. I don't know wether there a single doctor has the legal power to make such decisions (and if they do, wether they actually use that power), but that kind of worries me. Needless to say, with everyone being a potential donor, we aren't nearly as organ-lacking over here are you seem to be over there. By the way, the organs waiting list system over here IS strictly rational, taking into consideration every possible little thing you could ever think of. So when a person who drank his way up to almost death get a new liver, you can be absolutely sure that he didn't deprive a "more deserving" person of a liver. Again, this might also be possible due to there being more organs available.
  • by ars ( 79600 ) <{moc.lmgsd} {ta} {2dssa}> on Monday March 15, 2010 @07:25AM (#31480176) Homepage

    I know I posted this multiple times.

    Most of the posts here were about organ donation and how it's not fair to take but not donate, blah, blah.

    What I wanted was to at least inform the conversion toward the actual issues, and not some invented problem.

    I have no problem with people arguing over the definition of death, like you did. I just wanted people to at least be aware of what the true issue was.

    I don't agree with you BTW. We don't know anywhere near enough about the brain to be able to say what you did. By that definition (upper brain death) many lower animals are dead their entire life. (Or for example that chicken that lived without a head - but it had a living brain stem.)

    Cardiac death is much more unambiguous. And BTW, the heart can not beat without a functioning brain stem. So even brain death, is not total brain death.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 15, 2010 @07:44AM (#31480282)

    (Or for example that chicken that lived without a head - but it had a living brain stem.)

    Some animals have specific behaviours which are actioned independently of the higher brain, but which in a human would require consciousness. Humans have a habit of wrongly assuming that the animal is either (1) still conscious; or (2) never really was conscious. There are a few anecdotes (N.B.) about chickens, and there's the well-known spinal cat lab preparation - cats can walk without a brain. None of these preparations are able to display any of the independent thought or behaviour of a creature with a brain, and there is no evidence that they ever will. Organ function would soon cease if they were left alone.

    Cardiac death is much more unambiguous.

    Not at all. "Cardiac death" is an informal term to mean, perhaps, "died because his heart somehow fucked up" - it's not a specific diagnosis and you cannot declare death in this way. There is "cardiac arrest", but that is often reversible.
      PVS, [higher] brain death, [total] brain death, etc OTOH are definitions which have been debated in the medical and legal communities.

  • Re:crazy hypocrites (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:02AM (#31480814)

    I'm still only a medical student, so this could be a bit off.

    It's my understanding that one may obtain a court order to provide life-saving treatment to minors, over the religious objections of their parents. I've heard that some ERs have pager #s for judges, for this type of situation. You can martyr yourself (i.e. refuse medical treatment), as an adult with the mental capacity to make decision about your own medical care, but not your dependent children.

    As to being sued for malpractice: you can always be sued, regardless of whether or not your conduct was correct. The idea is, if you practice medicine within established evidence and social norms (i.e. provide lifesaving treatments to children, who can't yet understand the consequences of refusing them), harassing suits should not get very far.

  • by skunkiller3 ( 826491 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:08AM (#31480860)

    Except they make an exception for that one bit that's your most sensitive erogenous zone. And rabbis dare call that bit an imperfection. And even deny the pain that the procedure to "fix it" leads to pain and negative side effects, or even pretend these are a good thing.

    Except they're not the ones calling it an imperfection. Like it or not, they don't circumcise because they don't like how their wangs look. It's a symbol of the covenant between God and his chosen people.

    And no, I'm not Jewish....just a Troll-feeder, apparently.

  • by nidarus ( 240160 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @10:25AM (#31481672)

    Jews consider that murder. As long as the heart is beating the person is alive.

    Some Orthodox Rabbis consider that murder. And there's been some progress in that area as well. It's not a resolved issue, by any measure.

    Aside from that - mod parent up. 90% of the comments here are based on BS.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 15, 2010 @11:00AM (#31482120)

    The issue in the Bedford Ave. bike lane was not female cyclists with large busts nor female (or male) cyclists in skimpy clothes. This is something that some troublemakers threw out as a distraction. The complaint was about parking (and double-parking especially). If you can't 'stand' your vehicle in the bike lane legally (mind you people all over nyc park, double-park, stand and otherwise obstruct bike lanes all the time in my personal experience) then you are blocking the street. Please see and note especially comment #3 which reads in part "Fact: Since they started the bike lanes in Williamsburg traffic during the day is a nightmare, "

    See also the interview with Paul Steely White, director of Transportation Alternatives, in "Der Yid" which is a Williamsburg newspaper serving the Hasidic community. Quoted at

  • by bigsexyjoe ( 581721 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @11:33AM (#31482500)
    The government admits they illegally takes the organs of Palestinians without permission. Many of these Palestinians where killed by the Israeli military, of course. They started by taking corneas and gluing the eyes shut to hide their actions.

    I'm not sure why they honor the decisions of the ultra-orthodox, but not Palestinians. (That was a rhetorical statement of course. I understand why.)

    Here is a link. []

  • Re:crazy hypocrites (Score:4, Informative)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday March 15, 2010 @12:55PM (#31483692) Homepage

    The funny thing about the far right Jews is that most of the guys are in some form of learning program, so the women are often the primary breadwinners. This leads to the average Jewish woman on the far right having more education and job training than her husband.

    In the US, that's true. In Israel, the ultra-orthodox have Government subsidies. []. There are American Jews who think this is a disaster for Israel. "In Israel today, two-thirds of ultra-Orthodox men spend their days studying the Torah and Talmud and do not participate in the workforce. Their unemployment is subsidized by the state to the tune of about $1.3 billion a year. There is nothing inherent in ultra-Orthodox religious tenets that keeps believers from working: In countries such as Britain and the United States, ultra-Orthodox families do work because they know that they can't depend on outlays from the state. Israel must adopt similar rules if it wants a first-class economy."

    Saudi Arabia has dug itself into a similar hole, with a huge number of state-subsidized religious figures, but they have oil money.

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn