Torah Tidbits

22 August 2014 / 26 Av 5774
Issue 1020
Shabbat Parshat Vayeitzei
November 22, 2012

"From Machon Puah"

Uterine Transplants - A Historical View

This week we continue our discussion of the case of uterine transplants and the three problems that exist for the donor; chabala - the prohibition against harming one’s body which we discussed last week, the problem of sirus or castration, and the problem of undergoing a potentially dangerous operation.
The Torah commands us to preserve our good health, “you should greatly guard your souls” (D’varim 4:15) and we are forbidden from doing anything that would harm ourselves. Of course this prohibition is pushed aside in a case of saving someone else’s life where one is obliged to save another person even if he would harm himself.
However Rabbi David ben Shlomo ibn Abi Zimra, the Radbaz writing in the early 16th century, was asked regarding the following situation: A gentile said to a Jew that he would kill his friend unless this person agreed to have his hand cut off. The question was raised as to whether the person was obliged to have his limb removed to save another person or not, or was a person even allowed to have his limb removed.
He answered that one is not obliged to have their limb removed to save someone else’s life but it is considered commendable to do so and it is Midat Chasidut. However if this procedure would cause him to be in life-threatening danger then it is forbidden for him to have his limb removed and he cannot opt to do so. (See the comments of the Pitchei Teshuva on Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 157:1, note 15)
The discussion is in a case where another person’s life is being threatened and the answer given is that if there is danger then one is not permitted to undergo this procedure. We can deduce that in the case of assisting another person whose life is not threatened and who is in fact not suffering from a disease at all then it would not be an obligation and in the case of any danger to the donor would be forbidden.
So it would appear that it is forbidden for one woman to donate her uterus to another.
However it can be claimed that in a modern hospital setting even an operation to remove the uterus is a relatively safe procedure. It is true that there is a danger with this operation as there is with all operations but the risk is small and it is difficult to define this procedure as dangerous. As such a woman may indeed be permitted her uterus to another woman. - More on this next week.

Rabbi Gideon Weitzman

The Puah Institute is based in Jerusalem and helps couples from all over the world who are experiencing fertility problems. Puah offers free counseling in five languages, halachic supervision, and educational programs. Offices in Jerusalem, New York, Los Angeles and Paris. Contact: (02) 651-5050 (Isr).

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