The following article appeared in Kol Ha’ir on May 1, 1987:
As Hadassah Hospital prepares to begin performing heart transplants, it has decided to refrain from transplanting Jewish hearts into Arab bodies, and vice versa. This policy was revealed during a tour which Professor Shmuel Pinhas, the hospital’s director, arranged for members of the Jerusalem city council. Pinhas announced that “the hospital plans to begin carrying out heart transplants in the near future, but in order to avoid problems it will not carry out interethnic transplants.” It was explained that by “interethnic” he meant “between Jews and Arabs.”
In response to Kol Ha’ir, Tzvi Stern, the director of the Hadassah Hospital branch at Ein Karem, and Ruth Makel, the hospital’s spokeswoman, confirmed that this was in fact Hadassah’s policy. “Professor Pinhas’ decision stems from the high degree of public sensitivity on the subject of heart transplants and from the difficulty of finding Jewish donors,” Makel said. “Hadassah will make sure, at least at first, that there will be no transplants in which a heart is taken from an Arab and transplanted in the body of a Jewish patient, in order to avoid suspicion that the donation was obtained by improper means, and also so that no one can claim that because of opposition to transplants by Jewish religious circles a heart was taken instead from an Arab donor.” According to her, this is what Pinhas meant in his remarks during the city council’s tour. Makel also noted that if and when a donor whose family authorized the transplantation of his heart was found, the case would be examined on its own merits.
Eitan Melnik, a city councilor from [the left-Zionist party] MAPAM who participated in the tour, sent a letter of protest this week to Professor Pinhas and demanded that he revoke his directive. “What will happen if a Jewish child who needs a heart transplant is lying in the hospital and there is an Arab donor?” Melnik asked in his letter. “Will the child be allowed to die?” According to him, physicians in a hospital must act in accordance with purely medical considerations, without regard for the prejudices prevalent in Israeli society.
Professor Morris Levy, a pioneer in heart transplants in Israel, commented: “When I face the possibility of performing a heart transplant, it is the biological compatibility between the donor and the recipient that is decisive, not the ethnic origins of the candidates.” Incidentally, in 1979 Professor Levy transplanted the heart of a Jew into the body of an Arab patient, the second transplant he has performed. Professor Levy noted that when he performed the operation he did not worry about the ethnic issue at all and saw it then, as he does today, as irrelevant.
—Shalom Yerushalmi and Yoram Yarkoni
—Translated from Hebrew by Zachary Lockman