Organ Donation


Dear Rabbi Simon

I would like to sign up for an organ donation card with HODS [Halachic Organ Donor Society], which I understand has the support of some prominent rabbis. As I value your opinion, I would like to know if you have an objection to this?

All the best, Stan


Dear Stan

Organ donation is an important subject, as it pertains literally to matters of life and death. Perhaps inevitably it is also a subject that is disputed by leading halakhic authorities and, through the vigorous advocacy of its proponents, has become a divisive issue within the Orthodox Jewish world (including in the UK). 

HODS has a fine website featuring, inter alia, the Organ Donor Cards of some well-known rabbis. However, a careful review of those HODS subscribers reveals only a handful of personalities of substantial halakhic standing, and none of the highest echelons, whether in the USA, Israel or elsewhere. The HODS people invoke the unimpeachable authority of the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein z”l, as understood by his son in law (and professor of biology) Rabbi Dr. Moshe D Tendler. The problem, however, is that Rabbi Tendler’s interpretation of Rav Moshe’s view is disputed by other scholars (and possibly family members), and in any case medical science has advanced dramatically since Rav Moshe’s responsa were written in the 1970’s. The “cost” of an error in judging the time of death is little less than culpability for murder. A serious “downside” indeed.

Although organ donation is in principle—and sometimes in fact—a laudable, life-saving humanitarian act, the conditions under which it is appropriate to authorise such a donation must be assessed with the utmost care. For this reason, I would advise against carrying a HODS card.

Wishing you many years of good health