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March 04, 1994 - Image 44

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-03-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


A funeral can take
place, even without
the body.

uter, University of Mich

A University of Michigan Medical
School professor supervises the
dissection of a cadaver.








all me morbid.
Inspiration for this article
came when I accompanied a
medical-school friend to his
gross anatomy class. The ques-
tion that immediately crossed
my mind was: What does Jew-
ish law say about donating our
bodies to science?
"Plug your nose," my friend
warned before we entered the
The cadavers were covered
discreetly with plastic, but that
didn't prevent shriveled limbs
from hanging offthe sides of ex-
amining tables.
A dozen or so "first-years"
hovered over the specimens. Re-
ferring to illustrated textbooks
for guidance, the students lo-
cated muscles, nerves and veins
on the corpses.
For these doctors-to-be, Gross
Anatomy 101 is a required
"Knowledge ur the body's

What does Jewish law say about
donatihg bodies to science?


structure is essential for the
study of medicine. Anatomy de-
partments rely on willed and do-
nated bodies. I guess medical
students could look at pictures
and slides, but that would be to-
tally inadequate," said Wayne
State University Professor Dr.
Harry Maisel, who chairs the
department of anatomy and cell
I found the "Gross Lab" a far
cry from disgusting. If anything,

dead bodies, reeking of
formaldehyde, were reason for
hope: Even in death, we can
help improve the lives of others.
What a mitzvah.
Well, then again, maybe not.
The next day, I drove to the
secretary of state's office and re-
quested an organ donor sticker
for my driver's license:
I hereby make an anatomical
gift effective upon my death:
1. All organs 2. All tissues

(bone, eyes, other) 3. Body for
I checked off everything.
Oddly enough, I was happy to
establish a post-mortem raison
But, days later, a co-worker
informed me that my "good
deed" violates Jewish law. For
the most part, Halachah (Jew-
ish law) forbids Jews from do-
nating their bodies to science.
Rabbi Chaskel Grubner of
Dovid Ben Nuchim synagogue
explains why:
"Torah tells us you are made
from dust and to dust you
should return. Also, we believe
that there will .come a day when
the body is resurrected, and the
body must be resurrected as a
Traditional responsa (rab-
binic opinions) recommend that
Jews bury accident victims with
their bloodied clothing and am-
putees with their severed ap-
pendages. This way, when the
Messiah comes, the deceased
will be resurrected intact.
Judaism also prohibits post-
mortem mutilation out of basic
respect for the human body. Au-
topsies, too, are outlawed in
most cases.
"The body is a sanctuary of
the soul. There is an honor due
to that which was used for a

CASKET page 46

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