Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Do Chareidim Contribute Their ‘Fair Share’ of Organs?

July 31, 2013 9:26 am 3 comments

Orthodox Jewish men and their children. Photo: Wiki Commons.

I once attended a tribute event for living kidney donors, and was intrigued by the lack of diversity in the room. Though there were sectarian distinctions, the common thread was that they were all Chareidim. The room was filled with Chassidim, some yeshivish individuals, and a couple of Sephardic Jews. I had imagined that the diversity of the donors would extend to their religious levels of observance, but was amused that the distinctions remained nuanced in sectarian adherence.

It is not my province to render halachic rulings; I leave that to poskim (rabbinic authorities). Herein, I will address some realities and seek to dispel fictitious notions.

Chareidim are often criticized regarding their willingness to accept organs from cadavers, especially in light of their unwillingness to register as organ donors themselves. However, if one of these critics were to examine the facts surrounding Chareidi organ donation, they would find their indignations to be unfounded.

Consider the following: Each year, there are 160 altruistic kidney donations in the United States. Of those, one Jewish organization alone, Renewal (in Boro Park, Brooklyn), facilitates 30. (They enabled 45 to materialize this year, 30 of which were altruistic. The other 15 were donations to family members or close friends. In fact, the majority of Renewal’s donors meet their recipients for the first time in the hospital as they’re being prepared for surgery.)

According to these numbers, 18% of all altruistic donations nationwide come from one Chareidi organization alone! Of the 30 donors, all are frum (religiously observant), and 85% are what would be considered “Chareidi.” Furthermore, consider that not all Chareidim donate through Renewal; the amount of Chareidi/frum kidney donors compared to any other American demographic is staggering-in a good way!

Kidneyregistry.org states that kidneys transplanted from living donors last nearly twice as long as cadaveric donations. Now, suppose the Chareidi Rabbinate would congregate to reexamine their position on cadaveric kidney donation, and determine that it’s a mitzvah to register to donate one’s organs upon mortality. Do you think there would be a consequential difference in the amount of available kidneys due to the influx of Chareidi signatories?

Let’s examine some hard data: The overwhelming majority of people who have signed up to be [afterlife] organ donors are NOT qualified to donate upon death. It is the extreme minority whose organs are actually viable for transplant. According to Hrsa.gov, there are currently 118,929 people in America awaiting an organ. 81.5% of those people need kidneys. The average waiting time for a kidney is three to five years, depending on blood type. Sadly, 5,000 of them will die annually while awaiting their kidney.

101.4 million Americans (33.8% of America’s population of 300 million) are enrollees in state donor registries as of January 1st, 2012. According to the New York Times, there are approximately 11,000 kidney cadaver transplants that occur each year. Because America’s [annual] mortality rate is 0.7995%, roughly 810,700 registered donors die each year (which means there should be 1,621,400 prospective kidneys which become available annually to the ill renal patients).

Despite the above figures, only slightly more than one half of one percent of kidneys are in fact transplanted! The only explanation is that 99.5% of the kidneys don’t receive medical clearance for transplant because they lack viability; otherwise, there would be no waiting list at all (as 1.6 million kidneys fill the need many times over and would eliminate the existence of a waiting list).

Approximately 500,000 Chareidim reside on America’s blessed shores (Wikipedia/University of Manchester). Based on the US mortality rate, approximately 3,998 of them will die this year. Using our earlier illustration where the [Chareidi] Rabbinate would encourage signing the donor card, and Chareidim would become inspired to register as donors (and would match America’s 33.8% figure of registered donors), that would amount to 1,351 registered Chareidi donors dying this year, leaving behind a theoretical 2,702 kidneys to be harvested for cadaveric donation. Taking into account that 99.32% wouldn’t be viable [for transplant use], merely 18 additional [Chareidi] kidneys would be added to the national “kidney inventory” each year.

The 18 potential Chareidi kidneys that would become available (if the Chareidi Rabbinate would encourage after-life donation), is substantially lower than the 30 [altruistic] figure that Renewal actually facilitates yearly. That is even without taking into account that kidneys stemming from live donors have nearly double the lifespan of the cadaveric kidney.

One Chareidi organization alone compensates-and then some!-for all those [potentially] lost kidneys due to the Chareidi Rabbinate’s hardline stance. So, the next time you hear someone professing slander upon the Chareidi community with the notion that they consume organs when needed, yet refuse to donate, you will know the true response: Chareidim DO donate life!

3 Comments

  • I imagine that by and large they are only donating to Orthodox Jews. And yet they take organs from gentiles. If true, I find that troubling.

    • I don’t see anything wrong with that at all! Why shouldn’t there be a preference for ones own community?

  • a breath of fresh air. mr wolf, I am inspired by your donation.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Why do we think so negatively about psychiatrists that we still insult them by calling them shrinks? Some medics might be quacks, but we don’t generally refer to them as witches! Shrinks; The Untold Story of Psychiatry, by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, is a sobering account of how psychiatry has swung from a marginal, unscientific mixture of weird theories into one of the most common and pervasive forms of treatment of what are commonly called “disorders of the mind.” Is it […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion At Forbes Summit in Israel, Entrepreneurship Is a ‘Common Language’

    At Forbes Summit in Israel, Entrepreneurship Is a ‘Common Language’

    JNS.org – Nine months ago, Seth Cohen, director of network initiatives for the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and Randall Lane, editor of Forbes Magazine, were schmoozing about the “vibrancy of Tel Aviv and soul of Jerusalem,” as Lane put it. They dreamed about how they could bring young and innovative millennials to the so-called “start-up nation.” From April 3-7, Forbes turned that dream into a reality. Israel played host to the first-ever Forbes Under 30 EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) […]

    Read more →