Does the Sharī‘a permit autopsies?
Autopsies are not encouraged in the Islamic tradition; autopsies delay burials, cause harm to the body, and remove body parts. However, there are exceptions in the Sharī‘a concerning autopsies.
The Islamic principle of maslaha (public benefit) states that when the benefits outweigh the harms, the approach that is beneficial must be taken. Scholars have concluded that public interest supports performing autopsies because the benefits of scientific advancements, enhanced medical education, and related benefits outweigh any harm.
M. Makhluf, a prominent Sunni scholar from the 1950s as well as Al Azhar in 1982 concluded that autopsies do not violate the Sharī‘a if medical students would learn from the autopsy, if the law requires an autopsy to be performed to determine cause of death and/or to aid in a criminal investigation, or if a contagious disease could be controlled. Of course, the scholars agreed that the examination should only take place when necessary.
It is always a good idea to make arrangements with the coroner’s office to allow a speedy burial.
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