Photo: Haim Zach
Rabbi Elyashiv
Photo: Haim Zach
Ultra-Orthodox rabbis slam organ donation bill
Haredi community sets out to battle new organ donation laws, warn doctors will be accomplices to murder
"Thou shalt not kill," cried the pashkevils (large posters hung in public spaces) to the ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem on Wednesday. The rallying cry asked the haredi public to prepare for a battle that "will shake the very foundations of this country," against the newly approved law regarding brain and respiratory death. The writers accused the new bill of "permitting murder in the case of brain death." Which, they said, was "murder in every sense of the word."


Community rabbis cautioned the public to be aware of the new law and demand Torah commands be fulfilled in their entirety. "Doctors should also beware not to betray the word of God, and not to assist in murder," read the posters, adding blessings of wellness to the people of Israel suffering from illness.


On Wednesday morning two pashkevils ran the views of two of the most prominent rabbis belonging to the Lithuanian non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. The first was a renewed publishing of a poster from 1991, the year in which Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach determined that the pronouncing one dead on the basis of brain death was tantamount to murder.


The second poster was published solely in Elyashiv's name, and said: "As I have already stated, as long as the heart (of the prospective organ donor) is still pumping blood, even in the case of 'brain death,' it is not permitted to remove any organ from the patient.'


'Provocative and shameless intervention'

A related article published in the community's paper read: "In the world of the Torah and the Halacha, much concern has been expressed regarding the provocative and shameless intervention in the grave subject of murder and (the Jewish law of) saving a life."  


The newly approved organ donation law will give every family the right to decide by which halachic ruling they prefer the pronouncement of death to occur – whether based on brain death or heart failure.


Meanwhile, Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Shlomo Amar, and Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef have both voiced their support for the new law, which is intended to encourage organ donation among the religious community in Israel.


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