May 18, 2024
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Halachic Organ Donor Society Saves Lives

As a physician it is clear to me people should be organ donors. I know there is a shortage of organs and thousands of people die waiting to get an organ that never gets donated. But I did not know Jews have one of the lowest organ donor rates in the Western world. All Jews and, surprisingly, even secular Jews who have tattoos, drive on Shabbat and eat cheeseburgers, refuse to donate organs because they believe it is against halacha. Why this and not that? Who knows! Therefore, I joined the board of a very small but focused organization called the Halachic Organ Donor Society, HODS. It has single-handedly raised awareness about halachic and rabbinic support for organ donation. It has saved hundreds of lives in many countries by encouraging organ donation from Jews to the general public. It even offers a qualified posek to offer guidance to families during a difficult and emotionally stressful period. HODS literature and educational videos have been translated into many languages to assist other countries in educating their citizens about the science of organ donation and transplantation.

As an observant Orthodox Jew and a physician it is my responsibility to be an active advocate for organ donation. I belong to a growing group, the largest group in the world, Orthodox Physicians, who publicly support organ donation. We have worked to inform others about HODS. We recruit fellow Orthodox physicians to obtain organ donor cards, and we raise funds for HODS to publish educational literature and advertisements displaying Orthodox rabbis with organ donor cards.

It is in vogue for philanthropists of large and small sums to evaluate the impact of their monetary donations on the goal they are trying to achieve. For example, how unique is this project I’m investing in? Is anyone else doing it? What kind of bang am I getting for my buck? When HODS started out more than a decade ago only two Orthodox rabbis had organ donor cards, only 3 percent of Israelis had organ donor cards and 120 Israelis died every year “on the list.” Now 15 percent of Israelis and 340 rabbis have organ donor cards, and only 80 Israelis die on the list. Being involved in helping an organization save lives is satisfying in a huge way for me and my family. Since its inception in 2001, HODS has helped save hundreds of lives, educated more than 48,000 people through more than 800 lectures and raised awareness of the issue by publishing more than 100 articles, editorials and letters to the editor.

The following story is just one of several that demonstrate the dramatic impact of HODS. Recently, a Persian Jewish family that belonged to a Conservative shul was faced with the choice of organ donation. Unfortunately a relatively young man had passed away suddenly who was an ideal organ donor. The family initially said no. They said no even though the Conservative movement strongly supports organ donation. The family still believed organ donation was not permitted. A few hours later the family found the deceased’s wallet and inside was his Halachic Organ Donor Society organ donor card. The family contacted HODS, spoke to a rabbi and changed their minds. They saved eight lives. This story repeats itself two to four times a year.

An important lesson from the story recounted above is not only the need to carry an organ donor card but to speak with your family about organ donation. Even though you may have an organ donor card your family will still be required to agree before organs are donated.

When Jews take organs but refuse to donate them, it is a chillul Hashem and we should all be mindful the medical community is aware of this trend. In addition to saving lives, HODS enables kiddush Hashem every time a Jew signs an organ donor card and he or she donates organs.

I have seen first-hand how organ donation affects both the receiver and the donor family. The impact cannot be overestimated or overstated. Though no one should be in a situation where they can serve as a donor, I hope all would consent to donate their organs should the situation arise.

My family has been running, walking and crawling in every HODS 5K except for the inaugural event. This year the event will take place in Marine Park in Brooklyn, New York, on Sunday, June 10. Our team has been in the top three fundraisers every year we have participated. Please consider running, donating, getting involved. The website, www.hods.org is an excellent resource for those who want to learn about organ donation in terms of the science and the sources in the Halachic literature. Please visit our team page: https://hods5krace.rallybound.org/Team/View/64449/Team-Wertenteil or go to www.hods.org�and click on the 5K event info button.

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