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Autopsy: Traditional Jewish Laws and Customs "Halacha"

Goodman, Norman R. DDS, VSM*; Goodman, Jeffrey L. JD, Esquire; Hofman, Walter I. MD, FNAME, FCAP, FAAFS

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: September 2011 - Volume 32 - Issue 3 - p 300-303
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e3181e79307
Review Articles

Judaism has many traditions, customs, rules, and laws, which relate to the proper and ethical disposition of a decedent when a Medical Examiner/ Coroner is involved. In almost all United States jurisdictions, statutes mandate the need to determine the cause and manner of death (Coroners' Act PA Pl. 323, num. 130, section 1237). This article is a review of some religious writings, legal precedents, and forensic authorities, which may help to assist the Medical Examiner/Coroner when confronted with a Jewish decedent. There can be flexibility as to the extent that such forensic studies can and should be performed. The final consent and interpretation of the rules, laws, traditions, and customs will rest with the courts and local rabbinic authority.

From the *Office of the Chester County Coroner, West Chester; †Phoenixville; and ‡Montgomery County Coroner's Office, Norristown,PA.

Manuscript received November 9, 2009; accepted April 12, 2010.

The authors report no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Walter I. Hofman, MD, FNAME, FCAP, FAAFS, Montgomery County Coroner's Office, 1430 DeKalb Street Norristown, PA 19401. E-mail:

© 2011 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.