Proposed opt-out organ donation scheme is ‘a threat to Jewish freedoms’

Proposed opt-out organ donation scheme is ‘a threat to Jewish freedoms’

Board of Deputies critical of government's new system over its potential impact on burial and mourning rites

Organ donor card
Organ donor card

The Board of Deputies has said that the Government’s proposed new opt-out system of organ donation is “a threat to Jewish freedoms”.

In a statement, made controversial given the community’s mixed feelings on the issue, the Board said the proposal for presumed consent would also be a “threat to Jewish family rights around burial and mourning rites”.

Prominent Jewish community campaigners have backed calls for an opt-out system to replace the current opt-in system, including Marsha Gladstone, the mother of murdered terror victim Yoni Jesner, whose organs saved three lives.

This week the Board disagreed with mainstream medical opinion that changing to an opt-out system would save lives, saying there was “no robust evidence” for this.

Instead the Board said an opt-out system, whereby people could opt-out of organ donation, equated to “a threat to Jewish freedoms and family rights around burial and mourning rites”.

In a statement, the organisation said: “The majority of Jews in the UK follow Rabbinical authorities that define death as involving the cessation of heart functions as well as brain functions. Both definitions of death are recognised by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.”

The Board added that, under a presumed consent system, “organs may be removed from a donor whose wishes are not known while being considered to still be alive in the eyes of their Jewish family”.

Instead the Board said it supported education and awareness-raising campaigns by hospital coordinators, adding that it “supports the retention of an opt-in system with reforms”.

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