A live kidney is highest form of charity – The Jerusalem Post

On February 2, while his colleagues from various parties were busy crisscrossing the country in search of votes for the election then just a month away, Blue and White MK Chili Tropper was in an operating room at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem voluntarily donating a kidney to a perfect stranger.Tropper was the 780th person to donate one of his two kidneys since an organization called Matnat Chaim (Gift of Life) was set up in 2009 to encourage and facilitate altruistic kidney donations.The organization is quite suitably named, for giving a kidney is indeed giving a gift of life.Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Heber, who founded the organization after needing a kidney transplant himself and watching a friend die after not receiving one in time, expressed deep appreciation to Tropper “for the kidney donation, a lifesaving donation that solves a problem with no other solution.”Not only did Tropper save a person’s life, Heber said, he “can also serve as an example and means to raise awareness of kidney donation in Israel.”For years, living kidney donors were common among relatives and friends, but what Matnat Chaim in Israel and organizations such as Renewal in the United States are encouraging is the donation of a live kidney to strangers. And there is no higher form of altruism.Kidney failure is a major cause of death, and around the world – and in Israel – there are long lines of people, often on dialysis, waiting for a donation. According to Health Ministry figures, as of January, there were 857 people waiting in this country for a kidney.A kidney from a living donor is preferable to one taken from a deceased donor, for many reasons, including because the conditions for testing a donor-recipient match are more favorable, and also because a kidney from a living donor usually begins to function immediately, which is not always the case when taken from a deceased donor.According to a 2018 article in the online journal BMC Nephrology, “A preemptive living-donor transplant, before starting dialysis, has been shown to result in the best survival.”Furthermore, living donors significantly increase the pool of kidneys available for transplant. According to the journal, kidney transplants result in both an increase in life expectancy and quality of life for patients, as compared to individuals treated with dialysis. Sadly, the lack of a sufficient pool of deceased organ-donors has led to a situation where potential recipients have to remain on dialysis for a prolonged period, often dying before receiving a transplant.While Israel is low on the world list of organ donors from cadavers, it is high on the list of countries where organs are transplanted from living donors.According to ministry figures, 391 kidney transplants were performed in Israel in 2019, of which 248 – or 63% – were from living donors. By comparison, in 2009 there were some 150 kidney transplants, of which the majority were from deceased donors.Matnat Chaim has placed much of its emphasis on increasing the awareness of living-donor kidney transplants among Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities – communities that in the past have, for halachic reasons, been hesitant to donate organs after death. According to Renewal, for instance, of some 1,177 altruistic kidney transplants in the US from 2011 to 2017, 15% came from Orthodox Jews, which make up only 2% of the American population. In Israel, too, the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox are among the most likely to donate a kidney. And by so doing, they are truly engaging in acts of kindness and charity.The great sage Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides), in his epic work the Mishneh Torah, lists eight levels of giving charity. The highest level is giving someone else – through an interest-free loan, a grant or some kind of partnership – the ability to earn a livelihood and not be dependent on handouts from others.But Maimonides lived in the 12th century, long before the wondrous advent of organ transplants. Had he lived today, giving someone else life – not only the ability to earn a living – would quite possibly have topped his list.
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