"The family of soccer star Avi Cohen has refused to donate his organs despite the fact that he signed a donor's card - something that has happened only once before in Israel's history.
"Cohen, 54, was declared brain dead Tuesday afternoon at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, where he had been in critical condition since suffering a motorcycle accident on December 20. The determination was made by a medical committee as required by law.
"Pursuant to Health Ministry regulations, Ichilov then asked his family for permission to use his organs. The family initially agreed, since he had signed the donor's card. But shortly before they were to sign the necessary forms, hospital staffers said, they were contacted by rabbis, some of whom even came to the hospital, and the rabbis dissuaded them.
"Though the Chief Rabbinate was involved in drafting the law on determining brain death that passed two years ago, some rabbis still do not recognize brain death, holding that death occurs only when the heart stops - at which point, most organs become useless.
"The hospital sources said that Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar personally called the family to urge them to approve the donation. But they ultimately sided instead with the rabbis who urged them to leave Cohen intact until his heart stopped, which happened yesterday morning.
"It was Amar - with approval from the Sephardi community's leading halakhic arbiter, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef - who issued the halakhic ruling that held brain death, rather than heart stoppage, to be the true moment of death, and enabled the brain death law to pass.
"Some 600,000 Israelis have signed donor's cards, but the cards have no legal force: When a signatory dies, family permission is still needed to donate organs. Still, the only previous case in which a signatory's family refused occurred over a decade ago."
And it's not just in New York: Vatican Says Benedict No Longer an Organ Donor
"The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI, who has long championed organ transplants, is no longer an organ donor.
"The pope's secretary Monsignor Georg Gaenswein addressed the issue in a letter to a German doctor who has been using the fact that Benedict possessed a donor card to recruit other donors.
"Vatican Radio, in a German language report this week, said Gaenswein wrote that while the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's organ card dates to the 1970s it was rendered void when he became pope."