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Rabbi David Sperling

Tammuz 15, 5779
What is Judaism’s view on autopsy?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. The question of preforming an autopsy on a Jewish person has long been addressed in Jewish law. The short answer is that it is forbidden – but the longer answer is that it depends. In short, there are several reasons to forbid an autopsy. The major one being the obligation to respect the dead, and to bring them to complete and honorable burial as soon as possible. An autopsy can violate many of these principles. On the other hand, in certain cases there is room to allow an autopsy. This is generally when preforming one may very well lead to the saving of life. If by discovering the reasons for a death can lead to the saving of other people then it may be allowed (by discovering that there is a poison that could be avoided by others, or discovering who a murderer is, and safely putting them behind bars etc). The level of connection between the knowledge gained from the autopsy and the potential life saving benefits will determine the permissibility of the autopsy. Only a learned Rabbinic authority could decide this on a case to case basis. Here is a link to a good article on this subject from Aish HaTorah - Blessings.
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