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

Skin Transplants for Burn Victims

Rav Yisraeli addresses the permissibility of donating skin from a dead body for burn victims.  The cases are usually life-threatening, so this would override the prohibition of deriving benefit from a dead body.  However, the Noda Biyehuda ruled that one may only violate a Torah prohibition to save a life if you have a specific patient in front of you whom you are saving.  However, in order to have sufficient skin, hospitals need to maintain a skin bank, so at the time they are collecting the skin from the dead body, there is no specific patient in mind.  Furthermore, once the skin is in the skin bank, there is a small chance that it will be used for purely cosmetic and not life-saving purposes.  Based on these considerations, we cannot permit skin donations on the basis of saving a life.  Rav Yisraeli goes on to argue that skin donations are, in fact, fundamentally permitted even if no life was being saved, so long as the deceased gave consent while they were still alive.Finally, Rav Yisraeli addresses the question of whether skin requires burial.  He demonstrates from various sources that biblically only an intact majority of a corpse requires burial.  There may be a rabbinic requirement but that too would be waived for medical needs.  Rav Yisraeli therefore concludes that one may indeed donate skin to a skin bank with the prior consent of the patient.

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