Organ donation and transplantation touch on profound, and at times elusive, values and beliefs. These involve personal identity, embodiment, the relationship between the individual and the community, and death. Different cultural and religious perspectives, reflecting deeply ingrained but often unspoken assumptions about human identity and responsibilities, subtly but profoundly affect attitudes to donation and transplantation.
This paper develops the traditional Jewish understanding of justice (tzedakah) and support for the needy, especially as related to the provision of medical care. After an examination of justice in the Hebrew Bible, the values and institutions of tzedakah in Rabbinic Judaism are explored, with a focus on legal codes and enforceable obligations. A standard of societal responsibility to provide for the basic needs of all, with a special obligation to save lives, emerges. A Jewish view of justice in access (...) to health care is developed on the basis of this general standard, as well as explicit discussion in legal sources. Society is responsible for the securing of access to all health care needed by any individual. Elucidation of this standard of need and corresponding societal obligations, and the significance of the Jewish model for the contemporary United States, are considered. (shrink)
In addressing issues of access to health care and rationing, Jewish and Roman Catholic writers identify similar guiding values and specific concerns. Moral thinkers in each tradition tend to support the guarantee of universal access to at least a basic level of health care for all members of society, based on such values as human dignity, justice, and healing. Catholic writers are more likely to frame their arguments in terms of the common good and to be more accepting of rationing (...) that denies beneficial and needed health care to some persons. Jewish writers are more likely to consider individual responsibility for illness in allocation decisions and to accept differences in the health care that different members of society receive. The article considers the relevance of both shared and complementary perspectives for deliberations in nations such as the United States. (shrink)