Donateforlife: Save a life – save the entire world

February 21, 2014 by Henry Benjamin
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Ahead of an official ruling by the Beth Din on organ donation, there is already consensus across all branches of Judaism that to save a life “is the greatest Mitzvah of all”. Next week is DonateLife Week and the focus of this year’s campaign is to ‘have a chat’ with your family about the donation of organs following death.

The process is not well understood in the community and J-Wire spoke to DonateLife’s Dr Jonathan Gillis as to how it works.

He told J-Wire that only 1% of those registering to donate organs will become actual donors.

He said: “A person must be declared clinically brain-dead to become a donor and the body is maintained on a ventilator. This means that the donor must already be in a hospital usually in emergency or in an intensive care unit. The transplant team will travel to wherever the donor is situated so the same surgeons who will insert the organs or tissues into a recipient will retrieve them from the donor.” Dr Gillis added thatthere was no age limit for donors. “Anywhere from 0 to 100…we can retrieve the corneas of  a 100-yr-old”.

When asked if an opt out option could be offered to the public instead of an opt in Dr Gillis said that there was no evidence that the numbers would increase. He did stress that many relatives, unaware that the deceased had been willing to donate organs could block the transplant and for that very reason the organisation is encouraging families to make their wishes known.

Dr Gillis pointed out that there was rigid criteria employed in determining that a patient had become brain dead adding that two senior doctors had to corraborate the clinical tests. J-Wire asked Dr Gillis if recipients could ever make contact with the families of donors. He replied that the law forbids it. “What we can do is send an anonymous letter to the donor’s family from the recipient so at least they know that the donation has been acknowledged and appreciated.”

Families of those whose prognosis is hopeless are not approached about the donation of organs until the doctors are assured that all is lost.

Yael Cass, the CEO of the Organ and Tissue Authority, said of those willing to donate: “We are encouraging all Australians to register their donation decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register and most importantly to have a chat with their family about their decision. The family of every potential donor is always asked to confirm the donation decision of the deceased before organ and tissue donation can proceed.” In 2013 391 organ donors and their families transformed the lives of 1,122 Australian recipients.

The numbers of each type of organ transplanted are 2013 is as below:

Kidneys 645

Livers 252

Hearts 77

Heart/Lung 2

Lungs 167

Pancreas (includes pancreas islets) 34


Around 1500 Australians are on transplant waiting lists at any one time. The consensus between orthodox and progressive Judaism is their attitude towards transplant and organ donation is abundantly clear in the video below…

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J-Wire is a media partner with Donate Life

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