How do we explain the apparent contradiction that on one hand we benefit from all of the medical advancements that maintain and save lives but on the other hand Jews are not permitted to donate organs upon death for research in order to maintain and save lives?
So the question is, since we see that Hashem has encouraged progress in the field of medicine and that it was done by the use of donated bodies or organs for research, why doesn’t the Jewish nation permit the donation of bodies or organs?
And the answer is that when the President passes away nobody considers a proposal of taking his body for experiment. The President’s body is never taken for experiment. It’s buried in state. And that’s because of the reverence we have for a President. And we should have a reverence for a President – even for a dead President; even for a dead ex-President.
Now, where will you get bodies for scientific research? On the Bowery. They’re dropping dead every day on the Bowery. They are homeless people and there is nobody to claim their bodies, and so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be used. Also, in India there are masses of people who die and their families are happy to sell their bodies for $25. And so there is no lack of bodies on which to do experiments.
The Jewish nation has been accorded an especial status by Hashem. We are a mamleches kohanim vegoy kadosh. It’s not our fault. We didn’t choose that name – He gave it to us. What can we do? We are a holy people. And therefore even more than the President, a Jewish body is inviolate. It’s sacred. We cannot do anything except to honor it and bury it without making the slightest use for no matter what purpose.
And so you can have Orthodox Jewish doctors – if they’re not kohanim – and they can cut up bodies merrily and make research. You can get plenty of bodies. It’s only a matter of a few dollars. But to make use of the Am Kadosh, no; that can’t be helped. We are in a different class. And it will take a long time for us to appreciate that.
It’s not that we Jews are proud or we Jews try to classify ourselves as superior. It’s a principle that the Torah has taught us. Hakadosh Baruch Hu told us that. We are superior, and it can’t be helped. And therefore our bodies are not for experiment.
TAPE # 126 (June 1976)