Cadaver Study

Cadaver Study

Question:

Assalamualaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakathu.

As a Muslim do we allow to use dead human body for study like for Dr or any human tissue sample for treatment purposes?

And my Fiancee can go to university for studying PhD by covering full hijab.

Answer:

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.

We sincerely apologize for our belated response.

Human dissection, commonly referred to as cadaver dissection, is a method used in medical schools to study anatomy. Cadaver dissection is seen as the optimal way of learning anatomy as it gives learners a three-dimensional perception of the human body.

It is unanimous amongst the scholars that performing surgery on a dead person in order to save the life of a baby in the womb is permissible. Similarly, it is permissible to perform autopsies when required by law. However, there are differences of opinion regarding dissection for educational purposes.

Cadaver dissection can be both active and passive. In a passive context, an anatomist or professor conducts the dissection and the students observe. As one is not actively involved in the dissection process, it will be permissible. The difference of opinion is regarding active dissection carried out by students.

For most of Islamic history, cadaver dissection was strictly prohibited by the state. The reasoning behind the prohibition is due to the fact that the human body is sanctified. This can be understood from the following Ayah:

ولَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ وَحَمَلْنَاهُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَرَزَقْنَاهُمْ مِنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَفَضَّلْنَاهُمْ عَلَىٰ كَثِيرٍ مِمَّنْ خَلَقْنَا تَفْضِيلً (سورة الإسراء:70)

Translation: And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.(Al-Isra:70)

Thus, they believed that cadaver dissection went against the sanctity of the human body. Furthermore, dissection would cause pain to the cadaver. As it is impermissible to cause harm to a human during his lifetime, it would likewise be impermissible to cause harm after he passes away. Consider the following hadith.

عن عائشة رضي الله عنها, أن رسول الله ﷺ قال كسر عظم الميت ككسره ميتا (رواه أبو داود:3207)

Translation:  Aisha(Radhiyallahu Anha) has narrated that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has said: Breaking a dead man’s bone is like breaking it when he is alive. (Abu Dawud: 3207)

Another group of scholars believe that cadaver dissection carried out for educational purposes is permissible. They argue that despite the sanctity of the human body, we have unanimously allowed surgery and autopsy when the need arises. Since cadaver dissection leads to saving lives, it has become a necessity. Furthermore, the overall harm caused by not learning anatomy through cadaver dissection will cause greater harm to society than the harm of breaching the sanctity of the cadaver. Thus, based on the principle,

الضرر يزال

Translation: Hardship is removed.

Cadaver dissection should be permissible.

There are two objections to this approach.

1) The second group states that cadaver dissection is a means of saving lives. Not involving oneself in cadaver dissection will cause more deaths. Thus, cadaver dissection should be carried out by giving preference to the pressing need over the sanctity of the dead body.

Addressing this argument requires us to look into the types of asbāb (means).

a) Those means in which the outcome of the means is certain and leaving out those means would lead to almost certain death. For example, eating food during starvation. Adopting such means is obligatory and abstaining from using such means is impermissible

b) Those means in which the outcome is not certain and it is uncertain whether death can actually occur. For example, the use of medicine. Adopting such means is not obligatory and abstaining from using such means is permissible.

Cadaver dissection falls in the second category, as it cannot be ascertained if cadaver dissection can actively save lives. Furthermore, cadaver dissection is not an actual means to save lives. Rather, it is a method of learning anatomy which in turn will bring about knowledge that can help save lives. Therefore, this argument cannot be used to justify cadaver dissection.

2) While the benefits of cadaver dissection cannot be denied, there is little evidence showing the harms of not engaging in cadaver dissection for undergraduate students of medicine. [i] With the advancement of technologies, many other methods have been introduced to replace cadaver dissections. [ii] Furthermore, many medical schools in countries such as, Canada, United Kingdom, have removed mandatory active cadaver dissections from their curriculums.[iii]

Therefore, it would be incorrect to assume that prohibiting cadaver dissection would lead to an increase in deaths.

In view of the above, cadaver dissection is impermissible. However, there are many medical schools that mandate active cadaver dissection. This is the case in most medical schools in the United States and South Africa. Thus, prohibiting such students from engaging in cadaver dissection would essentially require them to drop out of medical school. This would cause great difficulty as there would be a shortage of Muslim Doctors. In such a case, it would be permissible to participate in cadaver dissection. The harms that would arise in leaving medical school outweigh the harms of dissecting a cadaver.

Similarly, the same rule would apply to fields in which cadaver dissection is essential to their specialization. For example, specialists in surgery.

In cases where the university does not mandate cadaver dissection and cadaver dissection is not essential to a specialization, it will not be permissible to enrol in cadaver dissection classes offered as electives.

We advise that a person that has been accepted to multiple medical schools should strive to attend the medical school that does not mandate active cadaver dissections. If that is not an option and the institute he attends mandates cadaver dissections, one should strive to try to limit their involvement. For instance, if it is a group assignment, one should rather observe than to actively dissect, if possible.

As for your second question regarding women attending universities, you may refer to the following link for a detailed answer. http://askimam.org/public/question_detail/38178

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Mirza-Zain Baig

Student - Darul Iftaa

Montréal, Québec, Canada

Checked and Approved by,

Mufti Ebrahim Desai.

[i]

Mclachlan, J. C., Bligh, J., Bradley, P., & Searle, J. (2004). Teaching anatomy without cadavers. Medical Education, 38(4), 418–424. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2923.2004.01795.x

 

Mcmenamin, P. G., Mclachlan, J., Wilson, A., Mcbride, J. M., Pickering, J., Evans, D. J. R., & Winkelmann, A. (2018). Do we really need cadavers anymore to learn anatomy in undergraduate medicine? Medical Teacher, 40(10), 1020–1029. doi: 10.1080/0142159x.2018.148588

Ghazanfar, H., Rashid, S., Hussain, A., Ghazanfar, M., Ghazanfar, A., & Javaid, A. (2018). Cadaveric Dissection a Thing of the Past? The Insight of Consultants, Fellows, and Residents. Cureus. doi: 10.7759/cureus.2418

[ii]

Darras, K. E., Bruin, A. B. H. D., Nicolaou, S., Dahlström, N., Persson, A., Merriënboer, J. V., & Forster, B. B. (2018). Is there a superior simulator for human anatomy education? How virtual dissection can overcome the anatomic and pedagogic limitations of cadaveric dissection. Medical Teacher, 40(7), 752–753. doi: 10.1080/0142159x.2018.1451629

Yammine, K., & Violato, C. (2014). A meta-analysis of the educational effectiveness of three-dimensional visualization technologies in teaching anatomy. Anatomical Sciences Education, 8(6), 525–538. doi: 10.1002/ase.1510

[iii]

Grant, K. (2018, May 12). Dissection debate: Why are medical schools cutting back on cadavers? Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/dissection-debate-why-are-medical-schools-cutting-back-on-cadavers/article18296300/Th

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