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Knesset Adopts Bill Restricting Doctors’ Rights on Autopsies: Law Was Demanded by Aguda Bloc

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–A bill severely restricting the right of doctors to perform autopsies was adopted by the Knesset early this morning by a vote of 57-53 with three abstentions. Its passage on final reading was victory for the Aguda bloc which had demanded the measure as the price of keeping its four-member Knesset faction in Premier Menachem Begin’s coalition government.

The debate, which began yesterday afternoon became protected as opposition factions sought to add various modifying amendments to the final version worked out by the Knesset’s legal committee. Representatives of the Medical Association continued well into the evening to lobby wavering coalition members in the hope of preventing its passage. While many MKs were known to be opposed in principle to the measure, Begin was determined to mollify his Orthodox constituency. Coalition MKs abroad, including Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir who was on a five day visit to Paris, were summoned home to be on hand for the voting.

The bill, as finally adopted, contained, two modifying elements. It allows autopsies to be performed in order to save or restore the eyesight or hearing of a living person; it nullifies the ban in time of war or of massive sabotage. It also allows organ transplants unless a close relative of the deceased objects. A person may will his or her body to medical science. According to David Glass of the National Religious Party, chairman of the Knesset legal committee, the revised bill balances the needs of medicine with the need to take into account the feelings of the fortuity of a deceased person.

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