Voice of the Jewish News: It’s a matter of life and death

Voice of the Jewish News: It’s a matter of life and death

This week's editorial reflects on the topical issue of organ donation in wake of a landmark survey

Jewish News

A huge new survey of British Jews’ views on organ donation this week showed we are far more ready to donate organs than the average Brit – a quite staggering finding.

On any other day, that would be the big news from this survey, but what shone out loud and clear as the priority was the utter confusion among Jews of all stripes and types when it came to what Jewish law said in this area.

On the question of death, some thought this was defined as brain death, some heart death, some hadn’t a clue.

On the question of myths, some thought Jews need to be buried whole in order to be allowed in to the afterlife, or to be buried in a Jewish cemetery, whereas others thought bodies simply could never be desecrated.

On the question of Halacha, some thought organ donation was always allowed, some thought it was never allowed and some thought it sometimes allowed – although they differed as to when this was.

In short it’s a bit of a mess, but with every cloud a silver lining: now is the perfect time to educate the community, because the UK is soon to move from an opt-in system to an opt-out system, whereby one’s willingness to donate organs will be assumed unless they have opted out.

That more of us want our organs to help someone else live after we die is great news. That we are so unsure as regards Jewish ethics in this area is not. Surely, that is an eminently solvable problem.

Let’s make it a 2020 priority.

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