Israeli organ donations soar after soccer star dies

February 4, 2011
organ donation

(The Israeli flag-draped coffin of Avi Cohen is seen during a special public memorial service at a football stadium near Tel Aviv December 29, 2010/Nir Elias)

Organ donations in Israel rocketed in January after the death of an Israeli soccer star prompted a religious debate on brain death into the headlines.

Former Israel and Liverpool defender Avi Cohen sustained severe head injuries in a motorcycle crash in December. He was pronounced brain dead and put on a respirator. Cohen had signed an organ donor card, but his family refused to give away his organs. Newspaper reports said rabbis had appealed to the family not to donate. Cohen’s widow said the decision against donation was her own.

Some influential rabbis teach that taking organs from a person who is brain dead is tantamount to murder. “The number one reason people give for refusing to donate organs is religious. Jewish law is perceived, mistakenly, as being against it, when as you know in Judaism it depends which rabbi you ask,” said Professor Jacob Lavee, head of Israel’s Transplant Centre’s Steering Committee.

In general, most ultra-orthodox rabbis are against organ donation while others adopt a more liberal interpretation of Jewish ritual law.

Rabbi Reem Hacohen, head of Otniel Yeshiva in the occupied West Bank teaches that a person is obliged by Jewish law to sign a donor card. “Organ donation is a great Mitsvah, or good deed,” Hacohen said. “If pronounced in keeping with Israeli law, brain death is in fact death.”

Read the full story by Maayan Lubell here.


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It is just incredible. Without any backup information the reporter states “In general, most ultra-orthodox rabbis are against organ donation while others adopt a more liberal interpretation of Jewish ritual law.” When it is obvious from other parts of the article that it is not organ donation that is at issue, but what defines “death”.

Organ donation is completely allowed from a dead body (with certain limitations), but not from a living body if the donation would cause death. “Death” in this case being cessation of the heart beating.

It would be preferable if the reporter would get their facts straight (since this is a religious issue).

Posted by k012957 | Report as abusive

However it is up to science to define death and not up to religion.

Posted by HeleniSmith | Report as abusive