Agudath Israel Opposes NYS Organ Donation Bill


agudath-israel-emblem1Legislation that would permit authorities to presume consent for the harvesting of organs from deceased New Yorkers is being “vigorously opposed” by a national Orthodox Jewish organization with a large constituency in the state.

While Agudath Israel of America acknowledges the shortage of organs for transplant and the fact that Jewish religious authorities may permit organ donation in certain cases, it considers “highly presumptuous” – in fact, “simply false – the assumption “that the hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews across New York State would be in favor of allowing their organs to be harvested and transplanted,” in the words of a memorandum sent by Agudath Israel representatives to all the members of the New York State legislature.

Agudath Israel notes further that “similar presumptions about other ethnic and faith groups across the state would be equally false. The plain truth is that many people, for religious or other reasons, would not want their all of their organs automatically harvested. To presume consent where there is no consent is to make a mockery of these people’s rights.”

Current law requires deference to a deceased individual’s personal and religious views before any steps can be taken to remove organs for transplant purposes. And it actively prohibits organ removal for transplant purposes where there is any reason to believe the deceased individual would not have wanted it.

Proposals currently before the New York legislature, however, seek to change that. One bill would eliminate the right to object to organ donation even when there is a reason to believe that the individual would not have wanted it. Another would presume that a New Yorker applying for a driver’s license would want his or her organs harvested and donated unless he or she “opted out” of organ donation in writing.

“Presumed consent,” says Agudath Israel associate general counsel Rabbi Mordechai Biser, “would effectively abandon the entire concept of personal autonomy-the principle underlying all statutory and common law regarding health care proxies, living wills, and the like.”

The principle, he continues, “that individuals have the right to direct what should happen to their own bodies after death would be replaced with the assumption that the state has the right to use a person’s body as it wishes unless the person actively protested such use during his or her lifetime.

“To put it simply: A person’s body should not belong to the state to use as it sees fit simply because he neglected to insist otherwise when alive.”

The Agudath Israel memorandum urges the legislature to “search for other ways of increasing organ donation without trampling on the personal autonomy and religious liberties of countless New Yorkers.”

{Noam Newscenter}


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