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Organ Donation and the Divine Lien in Talmudic Law

$102.00 (C)

  • Date Published: August 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521493383

$ 102.00 (C)
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About the Authors
  • This book offers a new theory of property and distributive justice derived from Talmudic law, illustrated by a case study involving the sale of organs for transplant. Although organ donation did not exist in late antiquity, this book posits a new way, drawn from the Talmud, to conceive of this modern means of giving to others. Our common understanding of organ transfers as either a gift or sale is trapped in a dichotomy that is conceptually and philosophically limiting. Drawing on Maussian gift theory, this book suggests a different legal and cultural meaning for this property transfer. It introduces the concept of the “divine lien,” an obligation to others in need built into the definition of all property ownership. Rather than a gift or sale, organ transfer is shown to exemplify an owner's voluntary recognition and fulfillment of this latent property obligation.

    • Offers a new approach to the question of organ sales and the controversy over commodification
    • Develops the new concept of the 'divine lien' and offers a novel theory of property, ownership and distributive justice
    • Interdisciplinary, offering new insights in the fields of law, anthropology, political theory and Jewish studies
    • Deals with the above matters in a way that will be interesting and insightful for professionals and academics in those fields while, at the same time being accessible to the lay reader
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    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘The combination of insightfulness, comprehensiveness, subtlety and creativity that is manifested page after page, left me utterly breathless.’ Rabbi Saul Berman, Yeshiva University, New York

    'Madeline Kochen’s interpretation of Jewish legal principles opens a new window onto the ethics of organ donation. Her illuminating take on Talmudic property law suggests a new kind of transaction that is neither a sale nor a gift. Solving contemporary problems with ancient wisdom, Kochen argues that God may give the gift of life but we have the power to imitate God by saving lives while enabling others to redeem their claims on us. A stunning achievement.' Joseph William Singer, Bussey Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, Massachusetts

    'With immense learning and in fascinating detail, Madeline Kochen explores what Jewish law says and what it might say about organ donation. But she is after a bigger prize: her book points toward a radically innovative theory of private property and distributive justice.' Michael Walzer, Institute for Advance Study, Princeton University

    'Madeline Kochen is both an excellent jurist and an excellent Talmudist. In her book, Organ Donation and the Divine Lien in Talmudic Law, she takes on a major topic of great contemporary significance in a fashion that will enable the Talmudic tradition on these matters to take its place within contemporary moral and legal discourse.' Daniel Boyarin, Hermann P. and Sophia Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, University of California, Berkeley

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2014
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521493383
    • length: 276 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.54kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Beyond gift and commodity: rethinking the compartmentalization approach to the problem of commodification
    2. Alternate property conceptions: the donor's lien
    3. 'From the table of the most high': divine ownership and private property in Talmudic law
    4. 'And your brother shall live with you': the divine lien and the obligation to save human life
    5. Returning a 'lost body' with one's body: human organ transplantation and the (re)consecration of the body.

  • Author

    Madeline Kochen, University of Michigan Law School
    Madeline Kochen, a former Law Professor at the University of Michigan, is a public interest lawyer and a Talmudic scholar, with a PhD in religion and political philosophy from Harvard University, Massachusetts. After representing indigent defendants on appeal at the Legal Aid Society, she worked as an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union, where she eventually founded and directed the NYCLU Reproductive Rights Project. Kochen has also taught at Harvard and at Stanford Law School, where she was an Assistant Dean. Her publications have appeared in Aramaic Studies in Judaism and Early Christianity, The Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception, the New York Law Journal and the Jewish Law Association Studies. Kochen has also served as a board member at the Michigan and Arizona ACLUs.

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