Halachic Organ donor Society, P.O. box 693, New York, NY 10108-0693, Phone: 212-213-5087, Email: admin@hods.org

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rabbi Shlomo Elyashiv on Brain-Stem Death

It seems this ruling was published twice, a year apart, with slight – yet important – changes. (The original ruling is attached as English document and the latter one as Hebrew document.) It has been said that the second ruling was issued due to the results of the sheep experiment. Rabbi Dr. Avraham Steinberg explains the difference of opinions between Rav Auerbach and Rav Elyashiv even though they jointly published this ruling, “While Rav Auerbach agreed with R. Eliashiv that at the time one can’t obtain organs from a brain-dead person, their reasoning was different. According to Rav Eliashiv the brain-stem dead person is alive because his heart is still pumping, while according to Rav Auerbach the reason was that such a person is “safek met safek gosses” (it is unknown if the person is dead or in the process of dying). This is a significant difference since in that if a validated test can be done that will assure the total destruction of the brain and on the other hand will not interfere with laws of gosses, then according to Rav Auerbach organs can be taken even if the heart is still functioning. My summary (ASSIA #53-54, p.13) of Rav Auerbach’s opinion was very carefully reviewed by him before publication, and he subsequently conveyed to Rabbi Mordechai Halperin that of all the documentation concerning his opinion it is this summary that most accurately describes his position in totality.”