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 can be confirmed. For some Jews, the diagnosis of death using neurological criteria (known as ‘brain stem death’) is acceptable. Other Jews will only agree to the removal of organs from a donor after the confirmation of death using circulatory criteria (once a person's heart has stopped).
After donation it is important to recognise that k'vod 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.
Personal statement developed for the Jewish community
The statement below will support your recorded decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register, and outlines what NHS Blood and Transplant commit to do to support donation proceeding, particularly in relation to your Jewish faith.
If you decide to register a decision to donate, and select the option for NHS staff to speak to your family and anyone else appropriate about how organ or tissue donation can go ahead in line with you faith or beliefs, you will also have the opportunity to download a copy of the statement below after you have completed the registration process.
The statement has been agreed between the Office of the Chief Rabbi, Board of Deputies and NHS Blood and Transplant, to provide reassurance to Jewish people who want to be organ or tissue donors around the processes that can be put in place to ensure that donation proceeds in line with their faith.
Please share this statement with your family and friends so they know what to expect should donation ever become a possibility.
One who saves a single life – it is as if he has saved an entire world
Pirke D’Rav Eliezer, Chapter 48
The decision to donate, or not to donate, is your personal choice. However, it can be seen differently even within the same religious groups. If you have any doubt, you should approach your Rabbi.
Make sure you talk to your family and friends about your decision so they know your wishes.
Judaism and organ donation leaflet
Download the leaflet below for more information on Judaism and organ donation, and the choices available to you around organ and tissue donation. If you have any further questions or want more advice, please speak to your Rabbi.
Downloadable donor cards
If you support organ donation, why not download our digital, printable and smartphone wallpaper donor cards?