18 January 2018
The British Government has begun a consultation over its plans to change the way organs are donated by introducing an ‘opt-out’ system.
Under current rules in England, a person who has died can only be an organ donor if they have agreed to it when they were alive, usually by joining the organ donor register or telling their family.
If the law changes, people will be considered willing to be an organ donor unless they have opted out.
According to research, and experiences in other countries, this change would greatly increase the number of organs donated and save more lives.
Before enacting any changes, the Government are consulting with the public. Liberal Jews can take part, whether individually or on behalf of their synagogue/community by clicking here.
Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Liberal Judaism’s director of strategy and partnerships, writes on behalf of the movement:
Liberal Judaism warmly welcomes this consultation and urges members to support the new ‘opt-out’ system.
Many in our movement have long argued for this process, which will make more organs available for transplant and therefore fulfil the guiding Jewish principle of pikuach nefesh: the saving of a human life.
As my colleague Rabbi Danny Rich wrote recently in the Jewish News: “Given the Jewish emphasis on the human desire and willingness to do good – to respond to the yetzer ha’tov – we are content that, in the absence of a written record of objection, the health services proceed on the assumption that it was a patient’s intention to give another human being the possibility of life, and/or a better quality of life, by the use of his or her organ.”
Furthermore a change in the law would help families to think about and discuss these difficult issues before they are at a point it is a necessity, this can only be a good thing for society.
The consultation asks many relevant and thought-provoking questions, including whether “this change could have a negative impact on people from some religious groups or ethnic backgrounds?”
For those worried about what Judaism says, our American sister organisation have an excellent article which explains in detail why Jewish law permits organ donation for both us and our loved ones. You can read it by clicking here.
Above all else, we must remember that saving a human life is the greatest mitzvah of all. As it says in the Talmud: “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if they saved an entire world.”
Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, chair of Rabbinic Conference, writes on behalf of Liberal Judaism’s rabbis:
A critical criteria for success in organ donation is that families talk about death as part of life and are educated in the renewed life organ donation provides.
Liberal Judaism’s rabbis are committed to providing this learning and nurturing conversations in life to work in partnership with the medical profession and keep more people living.
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