Jobs’ New Job

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has a new job, of sorts, and he has given me yet another reason to admire him. In fact, I think this one is even better than the fact that he gives my kids lots of candy on Halloween and is the head of the company that invented my most enjoyable iPod nano. I am even thanking Jobs (who is not Jewish) here for providing me an opportunity to remind my fellow Jews of a halachic and ethical obligation.

Jobs is much thinner post-transplant, but is reportedly healthy.

Yesterday, Jobs spoke for the first time in public about his liver transplant almost a year ago at an event here at Stanford University’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital to encourage increased organ donation by Californians. He and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a bill sponsored by state Senator Elaine Alquist of Santa Clara County (the county in which both Stanford and Jobs’ home in Palo Alto are located) that would require California motorists to either agree to be organ donors or consider it at a future time before being issued their license. Currently, motorists are not required to respond to the question about organ donation on their license applications or renewal forms.

“I was almost one of the ones that died waiting for a liver in California last year,” said Jobs according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News. He was fortunate enough to be able to get on the organ transplant list at a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Job’s financial resources allowed him to travel there for initial testing and examinations, and then again to fly there immediately by private jet upon receiving notice that a suitable liver was available for him.

The Governor credited Jobs with getting the drafting of the bill into motion by sharing his personal story and emphasizing the critical need for organ donorship with the First Lady of California, Maria Shriver, who in turn urged her husband to act. “What I like about Steve is, because he is a wealthy man that helped him get the transplant. But he doesn’t want that — that only wealthy people can get the transplant and have a plane waiting to take him anywhere he needs to go. He wants every human being, if you have no money at all or if you’re the richest person in the world… everyone ought to have the right to get a transplant immediately,” said Schwarzenegger of Jobs, who pressed to get the bill drafted.

Based on his personal experience of being close to death and being saved by an organ transplant, I am sure Jobs would wholeheartedly agree with the Jewish injunction that pikuach nefesh docheh hakol (the saving of a life supersedes everything else). Many Jews still think that organ donation is forbidden, mistakenly convinced that Jews cannot be buried without all their organs. This is, in fact, not true. The real reason that organ donation was traditionally uncommon among observant Jews was because up until relatively recently, Jewish law recognized death as only when a person’s heart stopped beating. Medical advances have changed the Jewish understanding of death, so that many poskim (rabbis who rule on issues of Jewish law) now also recognize the cessation of brain stem activity as death, allowing organs to be harvested while a dead person is sustained on life support to keep the heart artificially pumping and oxygen flowing.

Many halachic authorities have come to feel so strongly about this issue that they have formed an organization, Halachic Organ Donor Society, to clarify misunderstandings and promote organ donation among religious Jews. An impressive array of rabbis from almost all Orthodox hashkafot (halachic and philosophical outlooks) and sects participate in the organization and have given it their hechsher (“kosher” approval). Believe me, it’s not every day that you see so many of these rabbis agreeing on something. I am especially pleased to see how firmly even the Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) among them emphasize that Jews should donate their organs to whomever needs them, Jew or non-Jew alike.

I have registered to be an organ donor, and I hope you will register too, if you haven’t already. When they say, “You can’t take it with you,” it’s not only about money and possessions. It’s also about your heart, liver, corneas, and the rest. Just as you leave your estate behind for the sake of others’ lives, so too should you do so with your organs – even in a more literal sense.

Click here to watch an ABC news report on Jobs and Schwarzenegger at the event at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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5 Responses to “Jobs’ New Job”

  1. Halloween Costumes Says:

    Thank you for posting this. I really think it is great what they are doing. My Aunt almost died waiting for hers. She was really in bad shape. Before this happened to her I have to say that I had never even considered it. After what she went through it I now have no questions left. Your soul has past once you die. You are not going to be needing them. Why can’t you make the last thing that you do on Earth a sharing act of kindness? Someone else has a change if you give it to them. Thanks again for the post.

  2. Bernie Says:

    These two should make a big issue and use their clout to help get universal health care insurance for all legal residents. That will be of more benefit to more people than organ transplants. Get the basics first.

  3. Rose Barlow Says:

    Thanks for enlightening me – I thought I was carrying a donor card in defiance of Halacha. Now I can do it in accordance with Halacha. Yeah me!

  4. Robby Berman Says:

    Hi Renee,

    Thanks for raising awareness about the issue. If anyone wants to learn more about organ donation in Halacha or to register for our card, please go to http://www.hods.org.

    We are also involved in a lot of exciting projects to raise awareness so if you are interested in getting involved, please contact me at robbyberman@hods.org

    Robby Berman
    Founder and Director
    Halachic Organ Donor Society

  5. Mark Kerbel Says:

    Renee, wonderful to see the word being spread throughout the Jewish community. After my wife received a heart transplant (5 years ago, and doing well, thank you), we encouraged friends and family to sign their donor cards here, and had to clear up common Jewish misconceptions on the topic.

    Luckily, the rabbi at my wife’s synagogue took the initiative to spread the word from the pulpit on a shabbat shortly after her surgery, encouraging the congregation to similarly register for organ donation.

    BTW, this was back in the day when Ontario still accepted organ donor cards as confirmation of the deceased’s wishes, whereas there is an online form + fax now required.

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