Is it allowed to dissect human bodies for the purpose of training in surgery and medicine etc.?
Some people hold that using human corpses for training in surgery and medicine is synonymous with deforming the human corpse. Seen from this standpoint, the action obviously appears to be a most abominable one and thus not allowed by them. One of the basic rights of a dead person on his fellow human beings is that his corpse should be laid to rest in a dignified manner. Moreover, the Prophet (pbuh) is also reported to have strongly condemned the widespread practice of deforming dead bodies of enemies who were killed in the battlefields. However, it is obvious that the practice so condemned by the Prophet (pbuh) was for the specific and the sole purpose of disgracing and dishonoring the corpse and to show disrespect toward it. On the other hand, using human corpses for the particular purpose of enhancing our knowledge of the human body is an absolutely different act. Such an act seems not only to be devoid of any disrespectful intentions toward the dead but actually stems from the motive of serving the humankind. Therefore, there appears to be no reason to derive the prohibition of using human corpses for enhancing knowledge about the human body from the prohibition of deforming human bodies as a show of enmity and disrespect toward the dead.
I would just like to add here that although such an act cannot, therefore be termed as prohibited by the Shari`ah, it seems only ethical that human corpses should be put to such usage only after the particular person, whose body is to be so utilized, allows such utilization of his body after his death.
23rd June 1999