Elli Fischer
Writer. Translator. Historian. Rabbi. With ADHD.

How You Can Help Benjy Get a New Lung

UPDATE: Benjy Hockley had a lung transplant this past Shabbat (May 14, 2016). As of Sunday, he remains in critical condition. Prayers are welcome.

Benjy Hockley, a 34 year old oleh from England and father of adorable triplet girls. He has a congenital condition known as cystic fibrosis (CF), but has managed to life a relatively normal life until recently. Few of his friends even knew he had the condition. But it became worse of late, and now that his condition is dire, his family is turning to the public for help.

Benjy and Debra Hockley and their triplet daughters
Benjy and Debra Hockley and their triplet daughters

CF can be managed with drugs and physical therapy for only so long. In Benjy’s current condition, doctors have said that there is only once effective form of treatment: a lung transplant. The tragic reality is that donated lungs must come from dead donors.

So what can you do? You can sign the ADI donor card (or the American version, the HOD Society card) and encourage friends and family to sign as well. Since Benjy’s condition worsened, there have been several potential donors who died but who had not made provisions while alive to allow their organs to be harvested in order to save lives. While there are halakhic debates about determining the moment of death, there is a broad consensus that once a potential donor has died, it is permissible – and a mitzva – to use those organs to save a life. Chief Rabbi Lau has in fact made a special appeal on Benjy’s behalf:

It takes about 5 minutes to fill out an ADI or HODS card. You can even specify your preferred halakhic position on the determination of death – if you don’t have one, consult a halakhic authority you trust. Encourage others to do the same. Israel, unfortunately, has a low rate of dead donors, even if its has an impressively high rate of blood donation. Our main obstacle is education, not lack of compassion.

Not a single one of us know when we will die, but we all know that we will die one day. Under certain circumstances, one person’s death can help save the lives of others. To do so requires that we prepare in life for the potential eventuality that our deaths can save the lives of others. Our Sages tell us that burying the dead is the truest kindness, because we have no hope of ever being repaid. Technology has given us another form of the truest kindness – the ability to give the gift of life at the moment of death. And that potential has a corollary: failure to take the time to register as an organ donor can result in an avoidable death.

So if you haven’t yet, please take those 5 minutes. Benjy, Debra, and the girls are counting on us.


About the Author
Elli Fischer is a translator with rabbinical ordination from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate who is working on a PhD in Jewish History from Tel Aviv University. He is the editor of Rabbi Eliezer Melamed's "Peninei Halakha" series in English and co-creator of HaMapah, a project for the quantitative analysis of the history of halakhah. His writings have appeared in numerous print and online media.
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