The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America issued the following statement in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signing S4430-D/A6372-D, a bill that requires written consent prior to the donation of unclaimed bodies:
“We applaud Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation into law,” said Nathan Diament, the OU’s Executive Director for Public Policy. “This new law is critically important to ensuring that the religious beliefs of the deceased are respected. It strikes the right balance between respect for religious custom and protection of important research.”
Under the previous law, any unclaimed body had to be turned over to medical research or mortuary schools within 48 hours after death. That led to the potential for next of kin to be unaware of the death before their loved one’s remains had already been donated to science. It also resulted frequently in violations of the deceased’s religious beliefs and customs.
The new legislation, sponsored by N.Y. Sen. Simcha Felder and Assembly Member Michael Simanowitz, requires next of kin or the deceased person – prior to death – to have signed a consent form allowing the remains to be donated. The Orthodox Union supported the bill and sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo urging him to sign it.
“We are extremely grateful to Sen. Felder and Assembly Member Simanowitz for crafting and pushing this important piece of legislation,” said Jake Adler, New York State Policy Director for the OU. “No one should be put in a situation where their loved one’s beliefs are violated posthumously.”