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Under Jewish law, organ donation has met increasing acceptance as medical transplantation methods have improved. In both Orthodox Judaism and non-Orthodox Judaism, the majority view holds that organ donation is permitted. In some cases, rabbinic authorities believe that organ donation may be mandatory, whereas a minority opinion considers any donation of a live organ as forbidden.Sinclair 2003, p.242
Relevant Principles of Jewish Law In judging cases of organ donation, rabbis consider a range of principles and precedents, including mutilation of the body, the determination of death, the risk of the medical operation, and the duty to preserve or save life.
Mutilation and Undue Benefit of the BodyAs in Catholic medical ethics, Jewish interests in avoiding desecration of the body has been considered a factor in gauging the permissibility of organ donation. Those halachot are Nivul Hamet, which forbids the needless mutilation of a body, Halanat Hamet, which forbids delaying the burial of a body, and Hanaat Hamet'', which forbids getting benefit from a dead body.
Determination of DeathAnother major debate around organ donation has to do with what is considered death. One opinion is that death is indicated by the irreversible cessation of breathing, and the other opinion is that death is indicated by the irreversible cessation of a heartbeat. So depending on what opinion you agree with you will know whether or not organ donation is allowed because if Halacha considers a person to be ‘alive’ then removal of organs would be forbidden because you would be ‘killing’ the donor.Another issue is the prohibition against touching a goses. Goses is a halachic category ascribed to people who are critically ill and expected to die within a brief period, typically three days. Halakha forbids touching the body of a goses for fear that any sudden movement may accelerate the time of death. For this reason, there may be reluctance to medically intervene with an imminently dying patient solely for the purpose of preparing them for organ donation.
Preservation of LifeIn favor of organ donation, most authorities rely on the overarching principle (pikuach nefesh) that requires extraordinary actions to preserve or save life.Another issue is Jews donating organs to non Jews. Some say that because every man is created in the image of God pikuach nefesh spreads to non-Jews also. Also, there is a fear of enmity between Jews and non Jews so rabbis say that pikuach nefesh has to apply to non Jews also, because there is already a complaint in the medical world about Jews being willing to receive organs but not give organs. In addition, by putting yourself on an organ list there is a possibility that a Jew on the list will be bumped up if a non-Jew is given your organ. Overall, according to many Halachic rulers, there is no Halacha that says you can't donate organs, and usually it is pikuach nefesh that gives people permission to donate. However, because of some dissenting Halachic rulers, it is advised to consult with a rabbi before making a decision.
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