Rabbis could be asked whether they agree to their congregants’ organs being donated when they die, as part of the Government’s plans to smooth the transition to an opt-out organ donation system.
The added reassurance was detailed in a minister’s letter to the Board of Deputies on Friday, to allay concerns about the move to a new system whereby the deceased will be deemed to have consented unless they have opted out.
Minister for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention Jackie Doyle-Price said families and faith leaders could be approached by NHS staff, and that the faith of the deceased “will be respected”.
Doyle-Price said there would be a new option on the Organ Donor Register (ODR) to allow people to state that their decision to donate organs is contingent upon their faith being respected and adhered to in all respects.
“In order to respect these wishes the deceased’s family and, where requested, faith leader should be consulted to determine whether organ donation is a possibility for them and to discuss how donation can proceed whilst ensuring that any religious obligations are observed.”
Board vice-president Amanda Bowman welcomed the letter, acknowledging concerns that the changes “might put families in a vulnerable position when faced with a situation where donation could take place”.
Describing the Government’s “firm reassurances,” Bowman said the letter would give Jews “the comfort that the change in the organ donation system will respect beliefs, while crucially helping to save lives”.
She added: “We look forward to working with the Government and relevant health authorities in developing new guidance, as well as education and training, which will help staff understand and meet the needs of our community.”