Jewish Procedure in Hospitals After Death
According to Jewish thinking, a corpse is a sacred entity. In fact, the Talmud compares a corpse to a sacred Torah scroll! Just as a Torah scroll requires respect because it is a sacred entity, so too, the body requires respect because it is a sacred entity.
Following these procedures will provide much comfort and healing to the family.
1. According to Jewish tradition, during the last minutes of life it is respectful to keep watch as the individual passes from this world to the next. Being sensitive that all present should not leave the patient at this point is a matter of great respect.
2. The deceased should not be touched or moved except to straighten the body if it is found in an awkward position. Adjust the bed so the body remains flat. If necessary, place the arms beside the body (and not on top of it). Cover the body with a sheet. Cut off all tubes, cathodes, etc., from their source. Do not wash the body.
3. From the moment of death until the burial, the deceased may not be left alone. Therefore, it is vital that the hospital help the family by assisting with the prompt removal of the deceased into the care of a Jewish funeral home.
4. We would appreciate your cooperation and assistance in the removal of the body from the hospital to a funeral home by the following: When the doctor has certified the death of the deceased, please make sure that the death certificate is signed as soon as possible, thus saving your nursing staff and the family the added pressure of trying to locate the doctor afterwards.
5. In the event that it may be necessary to conduct an autopsy, please contact the Rabbi or Jewish funeral home to discuss.
6. According to Jewish tradition, medical waste such as limbs, organs, etc. may need to be brought for Jewish burial. Please contact the Rabbi or Jewish funeral home to discuss.
9. Prenatal procedure: With regard to stillborn, premature births, and fetuses, disposal is NOT PERMITTED as they require burial under Jewish Law. In such cases please contact the Rabbi or Jewish funeral home to discuss.
We earnestly hope this information will benefit all parties concerned, by helping to make such difficult situations a little easier.