Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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12 Nisan 5768 - April 17, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Statement of Opinion

Motzei Shabbos Kodesh parshas Metzoro, night of 8th Nisan, 5768

I hereby reiterate what is already known, with the sole aim of rebutting the various distorters who distressed my master and father, gaon of Yisroel, in this matter while he was still alive — may Hashem forgive them and may they not repeat their folly. I wish to make known my father's clear opinion that there are no grounds whatsoever for permitting a patient classed as brain dead to be moved and even more emphatically, none for allowing the removal of any of his organs. Appended is a letter written by my relative the gaon Rav Simchah Bunim Leizerson, who had extensive contact with my father in matters of halochoh, in particular in this area and specifically in clarifying this point. All he says is the absolute truth.

Written and signed for the sake of the truth and to uphold Torah,

Shmuel, son of my master and father, gaon of Yisroel, morenu HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach


Writing as someone who had the fortune to hold extensive discussions with the pillar of halachic ruling, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztvk'l, regarding the determination of the moment of death and organ transplants, and having heard from him at length about the topic's development and the stages of the debate as it unfolded, I am able to testify that the unequivocal opinion of our master, the gaon of Yisroel zy'a, was that a patient considered brain dead by doctors is not considered dead according to halochoh and that no organ may be chas vesholom removed from someone in this state for transplantation. [Furthermore] in Eretz Yisroel it is absolutely prohibited to register for receiving donated organs removed from a critically ill patient classed as brain dead, even if all the necessary tests have been done to verify this classification and even if they were done in a permitted manner.

In response to an article published in Assia 53-4 that was sharply critical of our master's position, I drafted a response during the last winter of his life, explaining his view and responding to the criticisms. In this article, which was written under his close guidance and direction. He even wrote part of it himself, and every step of whose discussion was reviewed by him very carefully. It concludes as follows:

"In view of all the above, regarding all the considerations relating to determining the moment of death, it seems straightforward that neither in Eretz Yisroel nor in chutz la'aretz is it permitted to remove any organ from a patient classed clinically as dead owing to brain death. In addition, in Eretz Yisroel it is permitted neither to receive nor to register for such a transplant. The prohibition of these procedures is in full force."

At that time, somebody published an intentional distortion of his eminent view in a medical journal in chutz la'aretz and I was asked by the parties involved to persuade him to issue a public denial. I heard our master zy'a, remark, deeply shocked, "How many times must I deny the truth something that I never said?"

Ultimately, owing to the matter's extreme urgency, he agreed, and on the tenth of Kislev 5755, approximately three months before he passed away, he again published his clear and unequivocal opinion prohibiting it, stating, "I hereby inform you that I have not changed my opinion from what I wrote to you and my view remains that someone who has suffered brain death is still considered as sofek goses according to our holy Torah [i.e. possibly at death's door but in the meantime alive] — someone who [even] moves a goses is regarded as a murderer — certainly no organ of his may be removed."

Nothing fundamental has changed and everything remains clear, confirmed and upheld, as it was then.

Simchah Bunim Leizerson


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