Organ Donation and Transplants

Question

Hi, what is the basic Jewish view of organ donation and transplants? I know that in general that autopsies are seen as a desecration of the body, but what if a person’s organs will save another person’s life?

5 months

Answers

  1. Transplants that do not require the death of the donor, kidney transplants etc., are certainly permitted as the donor is capable of surviving with only one kidney, whereas the donee will not be able to live without the transplant. That is why immediate family are often encouraged to be donors because statistics prove that their organs have a better chance for successful transplantation than others.
    However, the whole subject of organ transplants after death is fraught with all kinds of Halachic problems. The greatest of them all is that of the definition of death. The moment of death according to Jewish Law is not the same as according to civil law, subsequently, the greatest Halachic Authorities of our generation are hesitant to give a general answer. Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that one can not use hearts for transplants because when heart transplants were first introduced it was imperative to use the heart of the donor before the donor could be classified as Halchically dead. Today, with the advancement of technology such a ruling may not be applicable in every case, and therefore each case should be judged by a Torah scholar who is also an expert in this subject.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team