The ethics of postmortem examinations in contemporary Islam

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Postmortem examinations have recently become common practice in Western medicine: they are used to verify the cause of death and to obtain additional scientific information on certain diseases, as well as to train medical students. For religious people of the monotheistic faiths postmortems present several ethical questions even though the advantages attributed to postmortems in the West are also acknowledged by Jews, Christians and Muslims. The Islamic way of dealing with such questions will be surveyed via contemporary fatawa (legal opinions) issued primarily by Egyptian scholars; Islamic law, which was formulated in the eighth to ninth centuries, did not speak of postmortems. I will therefore depict the means whereby contemporary scholars approach postmortems in the absence of clear legal reference. The difficulties that postmortems create for Muslims at present will be weighed against some shari instructions which may help circumvent them. While the ethical and religious debate continues, postmortems seem to be accepted but not, however, without certain reservations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-168
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Medical Ethics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


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