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U.S. Rabbis Seek Ban on Autopsies in Israel; Legislation Pending

A resolution demanding that the Israel Government “prohibit forthwith” the performance of any autopsies in Israel except under severely limited conditions was adopted today at a protest meeting here called by the Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States and Canada.

The resolution was read to the rally, held at the Manhattan Center, by Rabbi B. Rottenberg, chairman, who said the sponsoring organization was composed of more than 180 Orthodox rabbis in the United States and Canada. The resolution called for legislation to bar autopsies. It proposed that autopsies be allowed in Israel only if specifically permitted by rabbinical courts and only if consent was given by members of the family of the deceased person. Before the meeting, rally participants picketed the Israeli Consulate here.

The Israeli Consulate here issued a statement reporting that a number of amendments to Israel’s Anatomy and Pathology law were now under consideration by Israel’s Parliament. One of the amendments would ban an autopsy “if the deceased had left instructions in writing or in another manner to the effect that no autopsy was to be performed, or if the deceased’s relatives registered opposition to an autopsy.

A requirement for the written approval of three doctors before any autopsy may now be performed would, under the proposed amendments, remain in force, even if no instructions were left by the deceased and no objections were raised by relatives. The consulate noted that Israeli law does not allow doctors to sign any kind of undertaking concerning autopsies when the patient is admitted to a hospital.

The consulate also said that, aside from the requirements of the law, physicians in Israeli hospitals “are instructed to exercise extreme care in determine whether or not an autopsy should be performed.” The consulate statement stressed that the percentage of autopsies performed in Israel was “lower than in many other countries, including the United States.”

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