One of the most difficult questions in Halacha (Jewish Law) relates to defining the moment of death. Specifically – is a person that is brain stem dead but with their heart still beating and with a ventilator artificially breathing for them considered alive or dead according to halacha?
If such a person is considered dead, their organs can be harvested and donated to others in need which would be a great mitzvah. If such a person is still considered alive, their organs cannot be harvested and donated to others.
The Johannesburg Beth Din will not be passing an opinion which of the definitions of death is in their view the correct one. The highest authorities of Halacha have debated this for many years and to this day has not been resolved.
However, the Beth Din, the Office of the Chief Rabbi and Life2Life (a division of Hatzolah) will be working together to ensure that organ donation in South Africa can now be done in the best possible manner according to those opinions that allow it.
In particular, Doctors from Life2Life will work hand-in-hand with the local organ donor authorities to ensure that the organ donation is done in accordance with the guidelines of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, who accept the view that brain stem death is the true definition of death.
A Doctor from Life2Life will be appointed by Lif2Life and the Beth Din, to be in attendance when the clinical determination of death according to South African Law is carried out by local organ donor authorities. This doctor will also supervise an additional confirmatory scan as required by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Furthermore, a medical professional from Life2Life will be in attendance at the removal of the organs and will ensure any organs not used are returned for burial as required by Jewish Law.
Statement from the Chief Rabbi
“I would like to pay tribute to Hatzolah for the vision in making this initiative a reality for our community and to the Beth Din for providing the directions for how this can be done in accordance with the guidelines of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. It is so important that those who want to donate their organs to save lives do so in a halachic appropriate way. We are blessed as Jews to have the Halacha as Hashem’s guidance for everything we do.”
Statement from the Dayanim of the Johannesburg Beth Din
Though the Beth Din has chosen not to decide regarding the Halachic definition of death, it is pleased to have worked together with Hatzolah, guiding them in ensuring the highest standard of Halachic compliance, for those who wish to become organ donors.
We commend Hatzolah for their untiring efforts in this regard and the considerable effort expended by Mr. Lance Abramson, Dr Reuven Jacks and Dr Dean Lutrin in bringing these protocols to fruition. The Beth Din is hopeful that this initiative will be of much benefit to the community.
At Hatzolah we are continually looking for ways to serve the community. We are very proud to have been able to play a role in this new initiative under our Life2Life division which is already doing so much good work in the community in the area of blood and organ donation. This initiative is a first for South African Jewry and a truly ground breaking project!
Register as a Life2Life Organ Donor
For those Jewish donors who have decided to register as organ donors, please click on the link below and fill out the Donor Declaration Form