But now Rabbi Schachter's position – as reflected by the RCA's recent position paper on the issue – is that Jews can receive such organs, even if brain stem death is not death and harvesting the organs is 100% murder. What changed between then and now? And why won't Rabbi Schachter explain his change?
Yet Rabbi Schachter is now allowing Jews to benefit what he considers to be murder – murder done specifically for them.
And Rabbi Schachter has provided no explanation for his change, and no explanation why it is permitted to, in effect, kill a non-Jew to get his organs.
* An Important Note:
No one has ever awakened from brain stem death. Brain stem dead patients die in a matter of days or even hours on their own because the body's organs completely fail due to the lack of a functioning brain. The Jewish law argument is over whether a dead brain and the lack of independent respiration equals death, or whether we have to wait for the heart to cease beating – something it would do in seconds if the respirator was turned off, and will do in a matter of hours or days if the respirator remains attached and working. In fact, a decapitated person whose blood vessels at the point of decapitation have been closed and who is attached to a respirator will continue to have a beating heart for quite awhile – even though he has no head. Medical science and many religions accept brain stem death as death, as do many rabbis – including many Orthodox rabbis. The issue here is the behavior of those rabbis and their followers who do not accept brain stem death as death, and who consider harvesting organs from a brain stem dead person to be murder.
In this old recording, Rabbi Schachter, Yeshiva University's rosh yeshiva and the de facto leader of Centrist Orthodoxy (it was Modern Orthodoxy before Schachter pulled it hard to the right), is discussing what the halakha regarding organ transplants should be if one holds a brain stem dead person is a safek haya safek meit, both a possibly-alive-person and a possibly-dead-person.
Rabbi Schachter says the halakha then should be that one cannot receive organs transplanted from a brain stem dead person – just like Rabbi Tendler claims.
This point would therefore be even stronger for those – like Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyahiv and some members of the RCA's Va'ad Halakha – who hold a brain stem dead person is fully alive.
But the RCA allows its members to receive organs transplanted from a brain stem dead person, and has refused to deal with this fundamental challenge to their position – a challenge Rabbi Hershal Schachter himself called "shtark," strong, on this recording.
To listen, click the gray bar. The recording runs 5 minutes 12 seconds:
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