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A Jewish perspective on organ donation

Is organ donation permitted in Judaism?

Organ donation is giving an organ to help someone who needs a transplant.

In principle Judaism sanctions and encourages organ donation in order to save lives (pikuach nefesh).

Whether or not the wishes of the dead person are known, it is widely recognised that families are entitled to decide for themselves; and that they will often wish to consult with their own experts in Jewish law and tradition before making a final decision.

Judaism holds that organs may not be removed from a donor until death has definitely occurred. For some Jews the ‘brain stem death’ criteria are acceptable. Other Jews will only agree to removal of organs from a ‘non-heart beating’ donor.

After donation it is important to recognise that kavod hamet (showing respect for the dignity of the dead) still applies. In Judaism avoidance of any further unnecessary interference with the body and immediate internment are again the prime concern.

One who saves a single life – it is as if he has saved an entire world
Pirke D’Rav Eliezer

Chapter 48

Personal Statement developed for the Jewish community

We have worked with representatives of the Jewish community to develop the statement below, to help people talk to their families about organ donation.

The statement is aimed to provide reassurance and clarity to Jewish people who want to be organ donors, around the processes that can be put in place to ensure that organ donation will take place in line with their faith. It makes it clear about the principles upon which their recording a decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register is made.

Once you have recorded a decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register to donate some or all of your organs or tissues, please share this with your family and friends, so that they are aware of the basis on which consent is given.

Making a donation is your choice. But it can be seen differently even in the same religious groups. If you have any doubt, you should approach your religious adviser.

Make sure you talk to your family and friends about your decision so they know your wishes.

Further information

Additional information is available to download below. 

Downloadable donor cards

If you support organ donation, why not download our digital, printable and smartphone wallpaper donor cards?

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