Jewish organ donation group has ‘overwhelming’ support since launch

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Jewish organ donation group has ‘overwhelming’ support since launch

Fledgling organisation meets with community leaders after survey revealed that 47 percent of Jews opt to donate organs - which is well above the national average

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

A new Jewish group helping the community understand changes to organ donation says it has had “overwhelming” support since launching two months ago.

The Jewish Organ Donation Association UK (JODA), set up in January, showed through the results of a huge community-led survey that 47 percent of Jews opt to donate their organs – well above the national average. However, it also found “widespread confusion” about what is permitted under Jewish law.

This week JODA said it had met with senior Jewish leadership teams and was “in the process of pulling together a plan ahead of the law change,” in the spring.

Currently, people have to opt-in to organ donation, but the UK is soon to adopt an opt-out system, whereby the default – unless otherwise stated – will be for donation.

JODA founders Eddie Hammerman and Dr Marc Wittenberg will be travelling to Belfast next month to present the findings of the research into Jewish attitudes into organ donation at the annual British Transplant Society Congress, which is helping to develop national policy.

“We are proud to represent the Jewish community at such a prestigious gathering of the UK’s leading transplant specialists,” said Hammerman.

“We will be highlighting the overwhelming support of the Jewish community for organ donation whilst also calling out some of the myths associated with donation.

“These include the unfounded belief by some that one needs to be whole to be buried into a Jewish cemetery or that a body needs to be intact for the coming of the Messiah. By all Halachic teachings these are untrue.”

The organisation is also launching a new JODA medical panel with a number of leading Jewish clinicians, led by Dr Richard Schoub, the clinical lead for organ donation at the Royal Free Hospital.

“Richard deals with complicated issues of organ donation every day, is also acutely familiar with Jewish practices so is well placed to provide the most up-to-date information and solutions,” said Hammerman.

“Our ongoing conversation with NHS Blood and Transplant has shown that they are incredibly supportive of the Jewish community and open to ways of overcoming any existing or perceived barriers to organ donation.

“By working together with the brightest minds in UK Rabbinates and medicine we know we can help save lives as the law changes to an opt out system.

“The continued support from the Jewish community into promoting organ donation has been overwhelming and the interest in the area continues to grow.

“There are some parts of the community who still have reservations but we hope that this will change in the coming months as we continue to engage with leaders and discuss the issues in depth.”
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