The lives of many thousands of people could be saved if more people became organ donors, a life-affirming move sanctioned by Judaism and many other religions.
“Not only are you permitted to do so, but it is a mitzva, a commandment to save a life,” said Rabbi Michael Pont of Temple Beth Ahm in Aberdeen, who spoke Nov. 2 during a panel discussion on organ and tissue donation at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune.
The discussion was sponsored by the hospital and the NJ Sharing Network, the federally certified organ and tissue procurement organization for state residents in need of transplants. Panelists included physicians and a Catholic priest.
Jan Hines, hospital service manager for the network, said there are now well over 100,000 people waiting for a transplant in the country, 4,300 of them in New Jersey.
“On average 18 people die nationally every day while waiting for a transplant,” said Hines. “One person can save the lives of eight people on average and enhance the lives of up to 75 others through tissue donation, such as corneas, heart valves, or skin.”
Pont said all three major denominations of Judaism have endorsed organ donation. He also devoted a sermon the following Shabbat urging congregants to list themselves as organ donors on their driver’s licenses, as he does.
In an interview with NJJN, Pont said there were several misconceptions within the community about harvesting organs from the dead. “People think they are not supposed to donate an organ because it is a violation of kavod ha’met,” respecting the dignity of the dead.
However, saving a life takes precedence over most requirements of kavod ha’met, he said.
“We have the principle about pikuah nefesh, saving a life,” said Pont. “We now have the technology, and we should do everything we can.
“Donating organs is not only a way to follow this idea of pikuah nefesh, but is a way to honor the deceased because you are taking his or her organs to save the life of another human being,” he said.
For more information on how to become an organ donor, go to www.sharenj.org.