Israeli Ingenuity Applied To Organ Transplants

As a capitalist, I want people to be free to sell their body parts. As a convert to Judaism, I notice that Jews are often willing to engage in work that non-Jews detest such as risky financial instruments, pornography, rap music, etc.

When it comes to body organs, why put a Jew at risk when you can buy from a goy?

The following New York Times story runs true to my experience with the less polite parts of Jewish life:

The men were, The New York Times learned during an investigation of the global organ trade, among the central operators in Israel’s irrepressible underground kidney market. For years, they have pocketed enormous sums for arranging overseas transplants for patients who are paired with foreign donors, court filings and government documents show.

But a Times analysis of major trafficking cases since 2000 suggests that Israelis have played a disproportionate role. That is in part because of religious strictures regarding death and desecration that have kept deceased donation rates so low that some patients feel they must turn elsewhere.

Orthodox Jewish law as interpreted by the leading rabbis requires that a Jew be dead before his organs can be harvested.

Kevin Sack writes for the New York Times:

The sages could not have anticipated that their writings would provide the underpinnings for cultural resistance to organ donation from the deceased in 21st-century Israel. But their definition of mortality, which can conflict with modern acceptance of brain death, is cited among several reasons Israel has among the lowest rates of deceased organ donation of any developed country.

The resulting five-year waits for a kidney from a cadaver help explain why this tiny nation has played an outsize role in the global organ trade, experts say…

“The general mentality of the public, and of many rabbis, is that they don’t see why people should risk their lives if there is somebody in Ecuador willing to sell them a kidney,” said Dr. Yechiel Michael Barilan, an Israeli physician whose book, “Jewish Bioethics,” was published this year. “There is no sensibility about the social dynamics of exploitation.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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