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Jews Warned on Organ Donor Option on Drivers Licenses in 14 States

February 12, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

— A total of 14 states have auto driver license forms which enable the license holder to permit use of the driver’s organs for medical purposes, a procedure which Agudath Israel of America warns Jews not to use.

In the New York State licenses there is a box at the bottom of the first side entitled “Organ Donor.” These two words are printed in dark, capital letters and easily visible. On the reverse side, the two words, “Organ Donation,” again in capital letters, are printed midway on the card accompanied by the statement: “I hereby make an anatomical gift to be effective upon my death, of:”

Below this there are two boxes to be checked for “Any Needed Organs Or Parts” and “The following Body Parts.” The words in these two boxes are also printed in capital letters. Another line provides for “Limitations” (also capitalized) and for the date and signature of the donor, with lines for signatures of two witnesses.


Rabbi Menachem Lubinsky, Agudath Israel director of government and public affairs, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the issue first arose three years ago, when the Orthodox agency learned that the Carter Administration was interested in such a program of enrollment of prospective organ donors and so advised state licensing bureaus.

Robert Lipshutz, then counsel to President Carter, called the Orthodox organization to determine what the position of Agudath Israel would be if the White House issued a statement that it favored the idea. The Orthodox agency told Lipshutz it was totally opposed. Lubinsky said no statement of approval was ever issued by the White House.

Lubinsky also told the JTA that in advance of its warning to Lipshutz, a number of Halachic authorities were consulted, including Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, an internationally recognized authority on Halacha and head of the Council of Sages of Agudath Israel.

Lubinsky said that while there is no Halachic ban on organ transfers if necessary to save a life, there is an absolute ban on use of a body for medical research. He pointed out that a Jew signing the auto license form was making a commitment to use of his or her body with no assurance that such an organ donation would be used only for “pekuah nefesh,” the saving of a life. He attributed that position to the views of Feinstein and other Halachic authorities consulted by Agudath Israel, banning such medical research.


Shmuel Prager, executive secretary of the agency’s commission on legislation and civic action, told the JTA that an investigation had indicated that, in addition to New York, similar options appear on driver license forms issued by Tennessee, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Virginia, Texas, Maine, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin and Washington.

Prager said he had not seen most of the driver license forms of those states but that his information that they do have organ donor check-offs was completely accurate.

Lubinsky, asked how Agudath Israel planned to make its objections known to driver license options in states where the New York-based Orthodox organization has no chapters, said that the organization had contacts with “key persons” in all states, such as day school officials, who could be counted on to make public Agudath Israel’s concern over the organ donor option.

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