Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler
There is a hashkafa, there is a broad construct, that involves dignity of one created in God’s image. That applies to respect when alive and respect after death. It’s been our principle, and one that unfortunately has been confirmed by history, that if you treat the dead human body as without moral value, treat him as an animal, then you’ll treat the live human body as an animal as well.
So that surely issues of desecrating the dead, mutilating the dad, those are critical issues in Jewish law. We permit autopsies only when there is an immediate benefit. We don’t allow the so-called “go fishing” autopsy – just looking around, maybe we’ll find something.
We can only approve of a directed autopsy, if you have an issue that must be resolved for the benefit of the family such as a genetic issue or whether the patient suffered from some chronic infection that could affect others. Nevertheless, we’re talking, or we’ll be talking about organ donation. Organ donation is not for cosmetic, frivolous purposes. It’s focused on the saving of life. Anyone who’s even primitive in his knowledge of Jewish law knows that all laws are suspended when it comes to saving a human life.
Only three cardinal sins remain, for which one must forfeit one’s life: adultery, idolatry, and murder. Otherwise, anyone who raises the issue, “but, but, but, there’s a halachic prohibition,” only reveals total ignorance of the structure of Jewish law, which places Pikuach Nefesh, the saving of human life, above all other laws except those three cardinal sins.
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