By Simon Rocker
January 25, 2011
Controversy continues over the new guidelines on organ donation issued by the Chief Rabbi and the London Beth Din.
See, for example, this fresh attack on his policy from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Moshe Tendler.
The guidelines state that, while organ donation was permissible, UK Jews should not carry organ donor cards in their current form until a religious conscience clause was included to ensure that any donations complied with Jewish law.
The Beth Din has also adopted a conservative position on the definition of death, restricting it to cardiorespiratory failure – when the heart and lungs stop – whereas some Orthodox rabbis also accept brain-stem death.
For all the apparent clarity, several questions remain over the guidelines.
The Chief Rabbi previously told the JC: “We feel the best way forward is that we should inform the community, there are voices this way, there are voices that way. If they want the view of the London Beth Din, it is this, but ultimately there’s a matter of individual conscience.”
So will the rabbinic authorities also publish the names of local rabbis who accept brain-stem death for people to have the option to consult?
Also, in what, if any, circumstances, might the rabbinical authorities allow a ventilator to be switched off?
If one is only prepared to donate an organ after cardiorespiratory death, should one only receive one taken under similar conditions? The Chief Rabbi has said this is a “spurious question” and what counts is whether the organ were given with the free consent of the donor. But other rabbis are troubled by this issue.