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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

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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