The Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, is under fire from the medical profession for withdrawing backing on organ donation and promoting the view to Jews that carrying donor cards is religiously unacceptable.
The chief rabbi has said he and his rabbinical court, the London Beth Din, reject the legal and medical definition of death. They have ruled that organs from Jews may only be removed for transplant at the point of cardiorespiratory failure. This position could mean that Jews opt out of organ donation in order to stay within their faith’s legal parameters. It also appears to contradict an earlier official pledge of support featured on the NHS Blood and Transplant website.
In a statement the chief rabbi said: “There is a view that brain stem death is an acceptable halachic criterion in the determination of death. However it is the considered opinion of the London Beth Din that in halacha cardiorespiratory death is definitive.”
Update 14 Jan: Sacks responds, denying that his views “reduce the number of organ donations”. However he also admits that he doesn’t carry a donor card himself specifically because of his rabbinical court’s view that only cardiovascular death is definitive and that he’ll only carry a card when UK Transplant Authority accommodates this view – presumably by differentiating donors who do and who do not accept brain stem death as a point at which their organs can be taken.
Meanwhile, in Wales, the devolved government’s plan to put presumed consent to the vote may not be lawfully possible if it has human rights implications – which are not devolved.
If the legal advice is that the proposals do cross into areas of individual liberty and human rights, then it is possible that it would be determined that a system of organ donation cannot be devolved.