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Publication Date

January 2006


This article explores two related, but distinct, questions: (1) whether, under Jewish law, it is ethical for someone to buy or sell human body parts, and (2) whether, given Jewish law's perspective, it would be appropriate for the United States to adopt a distribution system that would give preference to people who volunteer to be prospective donors. These questions should interest three different kinds of people: (1) those who seek to abide by Jewish law and, therefore, need to know its rules; (2) those who respect Jewish law, who are curious about it, and who might be persuaded by its teachings; and (3) those who, even if they neither follow nor respect Jewish law, are nonetheless concerned lest secular law unnecessarily, and painfully, impinge upon the religious values of those who do. This last group, perhaps the largest, needs to know what Jewish law prescribes in order to ensure that secular law is carefully circumscribed to avoid any needless conflict.

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