Albany, NY - Governor Signs Unclaimed Body Bill
Albany, NY - A bill signed into law today by Governor Cuomo has ended a more than 150 year old practice of allowing New York City officials to release bodies that are unclaimed after 48 hours to medical schools for educational purposes.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Simcha Felder and Assemblyman Mike Simanowitz.
Yanky Meyer Founder and CEO of Misaskim said that it took almost two years to get the bill through the legislature and signed by the governor. While the bill has obvious benefit to the Jewish community, its ramifications are far greater, explained Meyer.
“This has nothing to do with religion,” Meyer told VIN News. “This is the right thing, the decent thing. In the future any body that comes in listed is a John Doe, you won’t have to worry that if the body isn’t claimed within 48 hours they will be dissected against their will.”
According to the New York Times, over the last ten years, New York City has offered mortuary or medical programs a minimum of 4,000 bodies, almost half of which were used before being buried in the city’s mass grave on Hart Island.
Senator Felder said that the bill would allow proper respect for the deceased, noting that he knew of several cases that left families heartbroken. An association of 16 New York medical schools opposed the bill, pointing to a possible lack of cadavers to be used for educational purposes, but devastating mistakes over the years had already brought the policy into question.
In one instance, the body of an 85 year old woman was accidentally given to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, despite arrangements made by the family to temporarily store her body at the city morgue. It took three days for her son to locate her body, which had been embalmed by the school and was unrecognizable.
In another case, a Jewish man named Milton Weinstein died at the age of 67. Because Weinstein’s wife was mentally ill, she had no say over what happened with his remains, which were given to a medical school. Two year later when his estranged sons tried to find his grave, they found his body still in use as a cadaver.
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