I know we generally accord respect to our dead, which includes not mangling their bodies. On the other hand, obviously saving lives is more important than, well, almost anything, including respect for the dead. What are the prevalent halachic views on postmortem organ donation? Does its permissibility perhaps depend on what organ is being donated? (I can imagine that donation of a heart is likely to save a life; an eye, not so much.) Does it depend on whether the likely recipient is Jewish (and hence, perhaps, on whether the donor is in Israel)? What other factors go into the p'sakim (halachic rulings)?

(Just to clarify, this question is not about the brain-death debate. This question assumes a fully dead donor.)

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/3126 is about organ donation while alive.
    – msh210
    Feb 4, 2013 at 0:52
  • Some speculation: Perhaps one concern is that there may be a bias towards not keeping a potential organ donor alive, which may affect the treatment of the potential organ donor (subconsciously or otherwise). (A reason for this bias could be that his death could save multiple people, while his quality of life if kept alive might be considered poor).
    – Fred
    Feb 4, 2013 at 0:59
  • 1
    And apparently it's not just organs any more; I read in the paper this week about a veteran who just got a double-arm transplant. My reaction was "they can do that??". (He had lost all four limbs to an IED in Afghanistan.) Obviously arms aren't life-saving in the way hearts are, but I wonder if they're in the same category as eyes. (Yes, I know I can ask; waiting to see how this question works out first.) Feb 4, 2013 at 1:21
  • I once heard a truly excellent series that laid out all the issues on KMTT, but I cannot find it now.
    – Isaac Moses
    Feb 4, 2013 at 3:16
  • 2
    there are some discussions here hods.org/English/h-issues/issues.asp
    – rosends
    Feb 4, 2013 at 3:23

1 Answer 1


I'd heard a shiur from Dr. Fred Rosner on this, and in short, the answer for the segment of American Jewry that accepted Rabbi Moshe Feinstein as their posek is: if you're certain the donor is dead, it's permissible.

If the donor is Jewish but the recipient is not, there is some discussion; Dr. Rosner reports the psak he received from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein that this is still true.

Rabbi Yehuda Untermann didn't allow heart donations until the success rate passed 50% (which it since has), because once you've stopped the recipient's heart we've lost a "presumption of life" (which normally allows us to break halacha for even rare odds).

  • do you have a source for that statement by Rav Moshe?
    – Bochur613
    Nov 17, 2014 at 19:38
  • @Bochur613 that we don't care if the recipient is Jewish? It's on a tape I heard from Dr. Rosner shlita, who learned with Rav Moshe. No I don't have it in writing. Though I've also spoken with a posek who had heard (secondhand) that Rav Moshe paskened otherwise.
    – Shalom
    Nov 18, 2014 at 0:10

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