Hi, I had a question regarding organ transplantation in regards to Jewish law. For example, there is a new driver who drives his friends one saturday night and does not register a red light as the car gets hit on the driver’s side. The driver and the girl behind him both get injured, the driver is put on a ventilator and is brain dead while the girl needs a liver transplant. Seeing how this girl is adopted she can only get the liver from the driver. Should the driver’s parents agree to pull the plug so he can save her but die or should they say no because he still has a few hours left? How should we argue this with the help of Jewish sources?


This is a very delicate question, and has been discussed extensively in recent years.

You can see a good summary of the different aspects of the discussion (in Hebrew) here.

The basic obligation to donate organs is clear: There is no higher value in Torah that the value of life itself, and if a life can be saved it is our ultimate obligation to do so.

However, the concern is that the donor is not considered “dead” according to the halachic definition, in which case it is absolutely forbidden to remove his organs and cause his death. Because of this concern the majority of halachic authorities refrained from endorsing organ donations for people diagnosed as brain-dead, for fear that this would involve “killing” the person (see here for these opinions).

As time change, the procedures for determining the moment of death change, as do the ethics of the matter, and therefore this is a halachic issue that remains dynamic.

Best wishes.


Tags: donation halachah

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