LifeCycle Events: Death, Burial, and Bereavement: An Organ Donator Being Buried in a Jewish Cemetery:
Can I be an organ donor and still be buried in an Orthodox cemetery?
A person who saves someone's life by donating an organ
hes done a great Mitzvah. The Halachic problem that arises is
that if the organ is essential for the donor's life, taking it
while the donor is still alive is halachically an act of murder.
Therefore, the issue that needs be addressed when discussing organ
donations is how to establish the donor's time of death. The Halachah
does not recognize the common concept of "brain death" as establishing
the time of death of the donor. And by the time a person is Halachically
dead (no longer breathing, and heart no longer beating), the person's
vital organs may no longer be useful for transplanting.
It is important to realize that "quality of life" issues are not relevant
to this question. Killing a person who has only five minutes to live is just
as much murder as killing a person who has 70 years to live.
Donating an organ such as a kidney, which is not essential for the
donor's life, or donating bone marrow, not only is not a sin, but is a
tremendous Mitzvah. Even if you are donating a heart or other vital organ,
you are not actively doing a sin. At worst, the doctor harvesting the
organ is sinning, but there would be no reason to exclude you from burial
in a Jewish cemetery. However, if you are contemplating making such a
donation, you should consult a Rabbi who is knowledgable in both Halachah
and Medical Ethics.