Bedside chat that changed Israel's rules for organ transplants
The Sidney Morning Herald | Ruth Pollard - Jerusalem
AS SURGEON Jacob Lavee was preparing to perform a heart transplant on an ultra-Orthodox Jewish patient, they had a conversation that changed the way he thought about organ donation forever.
The patient confided in him that although he was happy to receive an organ donated by someone else - a heart that would save his life - he would never consider being an organ donor himself.
''It was five years ago in our intensive care unit, and he was on the top of the priority list for a heart transplant,'' Dr Lavee said.
''He was a very religious man and he candidly admitted to me that although he was waiting for a person to die and their family to give consent for their loved one's organs to be donated, because of his religious beliefs he would never contemplate doing the same.''
Touched by the unfairness of the deal, Dr Lavee performed the transplant, then set about revolutionising the way Israel manages its organ donation program.
Last month, it became the first country in the world to give transplant priority to patients who have agreed to donate their organs over those who have not - that is, allowing something other than medical need to be considered.
Patients are still prioritised on the severity of their condition, but if there are two people at the top of the transplant list, the one who has registered as an organ donor - or has a relative in their nuclear family who has already donated their organs - will get the transplant first.