Organ Donarion: “Should one be buried whole?”

Religious leaders confront myths that stop faithful from donating organs

Nothing should stand in the way of saving a life, particularly not death.

Rabbi Reuven Bulka has spent years spreading that message within the Jewish community and beyond with limited success. He is up against centuries of the cultural belief that one should be buried “whole.” This prevents people from supporting organ and tissue donation and costs lives: One person dies every three days in Ontario awaiting a life-saving transplant.

“You are trying to undo in a relatively short time, a decade or two or three, thousands of years of fundamental practices,” says Bulka, 67, a longtime Rabbi in Ottawa and chair of the board at Trillium Gift of Life Network, the provincial agency mandated to organize organ and tissue donation and transplantation.

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Bulka will be in Toronto Oct. 4 to participate in a forum discussing organ donation from the Jewish perspective, organized by the National Council of Jewish Women.

“The most important thing is to change the culture of people from being takers of the health-care system to being givers,” Bulka says.

It’s an uphill battle. At just 12 per cent, the GTA has the lowest rate of registered donors of any jurisdiction that performs transplants. Ontario’s rate overall is 19 per cent. As of Sept. 29, there are 1,547 people awaiting life-saving organ transplants in Ontario.

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