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Rabbi Says Law Oks Transplants, Opposes Anatomical Dismemberment of Body

An Orthodox rabbi said here that Jewish law permits Jews to donate their hearts or other organs for transplants but forbids them to give their bodies to science or for anatomical dismemberment “because most schools do not give the body enough respect.”

Rabbi N. L. Rabinovitch of Clanton Park Synagogue, who lectures in mathematics at the University of Toronto, said at a university seminar that donating a heart was a life-saving procedure that took precedence over the Commandment that forbids mutilation of the dead. He said there was nothing in the Torah that forbade the use of kidneys, corneas or any vital organs taken from a Jewish donor “because there is no greater merit even in death than contributing to saving a life.” He said the Torah also permits autopsies if they are needed to find the answers to medical puzzles, but the Torah would not allow persons to give a nose for cosmetic reasons because that would not justify mutilating the dead.

Rabbi Rabinovitch said it would be acceptable for a Jewish person to be given a pig’s heart if science developed a way to use animal organs instead of human organs in a transplant. He also said that according to Jewish law the deceased need not have declared his wish to be a donor in order for his organs to be taken for a transplant.

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