JERUSALEM (Oct. 22)
Israel’s first liver transplant patient, Mira Schichmanter, 39, was reported in critical but stable condition at Rambam Hospital in Haifa at noon Wednesday after 20 hours in the operating room and 18 hours of surgery.
Dr. Yigal Kam, who performed the operation, said it will not be known for three days whether the transplanted liver will be rejected. If the patient survives after that period she will be declared out of danger.
Liver transplants hitherto were not permitted in Israel because of objections by the religious authorities and patients needing them for survival were forced to go abroad for surgery. Dr. Kam trained in the technique in Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Rambam Hospital claims to be the first in Israel with full facilities to perform the complex operation.
It received permission in principle several months ago. The specific license to operate on Schichmanter was issued Tuesday by Health Minister Shoshana Arbeli-Amoslina, her first act after taking office in the new Cabinet. She gave approval without consulting the halachic authorities because time was of the essence.
Shichmanter, from Kfar Saba, a mother of two, suffered from a chronic liver ailment for seven years. Her health deteriorated recently and according to hospital sources only a transplant could save her life. The donor was a 19-year-old woman soldier, Rivital Brandt of Kibbutz Shaar Ha’amakin, who was killed in a road accident earlier this week.
RABBINICAL COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER THE ISSUE
The Chief Rabbinate has established a committee of rabbis and medical doctors to consider the issue of liver and heart transplants. The problem lies in the difference between medical and rabbinical definitions of death. According to medical science, death occurs when the brain ceases to function. Religious tradition considers a person to be alive as long as the heart beats. But hearts can be kept beating by artificial means long after the brain dies.
Livers suitable for transplant must be extracted while the donor’s heart is still pumping blood. Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira said Wednesday that he is praying for Schichmanter’s life and health, but that the definition of death has yet to be settled.