‘Incomprehensible generosity’: Lucy Dee’s organs donated, saving five lives

‘Lucy and I had discussed this before,’ widower Rabbi Leo Dee says after his wife’s heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys were transplanted and shortly before her funeral

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Lucy and Leo Dee. (Courtesy)
Lucy and Leo Dee. (Courtesy)

The organs of terror victim Lucy Dee were transplanted Tuesday hours before her funeral, saving the lives of five people, the National Transplant Center said. Her widower, Rabbi Leo Dee, explained the decision by surviving family members to donate the organs — a practice that some Orthodox Jews consider forbidden by Jewish law.

“Since the tragedy, the remaining four of us in the family make decisions together. When the doctors told us the news [that Lucy was brain dead] and also in a condition where she could donate her organs, I brought the family together and we decided to donate the organs,” Dee told The Times of Israel.

Dee explained that the reasoning behind the decisions involved both religious considerations and his wife having discussed organ donation with him in the past.

“Our rabbinical authority had checked out the halachot [Jewish laws] and explained to me that in her condition, it was perfectly acceptable — actually a mitzvah [religious commandment]. Only the bones and tendons should not be donated, and everything else that is lifesaving should be given,” he said.

“Second, Lucy and I had discussed this before in the past, and the only reason we didn’t have [donation] cards was because we were worried that if we were abroad, and we had donation cards, that a hospital in England or Switzerland, for instance, might switch us off a little bit early in order to take organs in a non-halachic way,” added Dee.

“But in principle, she and I had no objection to giving organs.”

Rabbi Leo Dee eulogizes his two daughters Maia and Rina, who were killed in a terror attack on April 7, 2023, at their funeral on April 9, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Lucy Dee, 48, was critically injured when terrorists shot at her car in the northern Jordan Valley on April 7. She died Monday at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem despite intensive efforts to save her life.

Two of Dee’s five children — Maia, 20, and Rina, 15 — were with her in the car and were pronounced dead at the scene by first responders following the shooting.

The family were on their way from their home in the Efrat settlement south of Jerusalem to a vacation in Tiberias in the north of the country. Leo Dee and other members of the family were in another car and were uninjured.

Maia and Rina were buried on April 9, with the funeral for Lucy set to be held on Tuesday afternoon.

From left: Lucy Dee is seen with her daughters Rina and Maia. The two sisters were shot dead in a terrorist attack in the West Bank on April 7, 2023. Their mother, critically hurt in the attack, died on April 10, 2023. (Courtesy)

Leo Dee’s voice cracked as he mentioned that his eldest daughter Maia had carried an organ donor card.

“Unfortunately, because of the circumstances [of her death], she was unable to donate her organs,” he said.

Five of Lucy Dee’s were transplanted Tuesday at Israel’s Beilinson Hospital and Sheba Medical Center.

At Beilinson, Dee’s heart went to a 51-year-old woman, her liver to a 25-year-old man, and her kidneys to two men — one in his late 30s and one in his late 50s. Her lungs were transplanted into a 58-year-old woman at Sheba. Her corneas were also harvested and will go to recipients at a later date.

Surgeons at Beilinson Hospital transplant one of Lucy Dee’s organs, April 11, 2023. (Courtesy of Beilinson Hospital)

Physicians involved in the complex operation of harvesting and transplanting the organs praised the Dee family, who immigrated to Israel from the United Kingdom in 2014.

“The act of this noble family is a point of light in the darkness, and they saved many lives,” said Dr. Dan Arvut, director of cardiothoracic surgery at Beilinson.

Dr. Eviatar Nesher, director of Beilinson’s organ transplantation department, said that despite having conducted such operations for many years, he was extremely moved by the strength of the Dee family.

“Their generosity is incomprehensible in the face of such a horrific tragedy,” he said.

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