DELAYED BURIAL SPARKS STORM
JEWISH TELEGRAPH ONLINE
PROTESTS were made by the [Manchester, England area] Salford Jewish community this week over a delay in the burial of a 21-month-old boy.
The child died last Friday evening - but his body was not released for burial by City of Manchester coroner Nigel Meadows until Wednesday - five days later.
The boy, whose surname is Dresdner, is believed to have suffered from cold and flu symptoms for a week before his parents discovered his colour had suddenly changed.
Hatzola were called, but it was too late.
The delay in the funeral caused consternation in the Salford Jewish community. And this rapidly spread worldwide.
The American-based website theyeshivaworld.com posted an urgent appeal for emails to be sent to the coroner urging a speedy release of the body to comply with Jewish law.
The appeal read: "Unfortunately, a tragedy has occurred within the Manchester kehilloh (community) where a baby of 21 months passed away Friday night and askonim (community activists) have still been unable to secure a release document from the coroner's office, which entitles burial, despite promises that release would take place this morning (Tuesday). Protocol was followed by the Chevra Kadisha and family immediately and local askonim feel they need as many members from the frum community as possible to impress on the coroner's office to expedite matters immediately."
Correspondents were urged to send "pleasant" emails.
A sample letter was provided claiming that the writer had been "in contact with the family" who were undergoing "tremendous pain and suffering".
Not only was the coroner's office flooded with requests, but demonstrations also took place outside his office and home.
Simon Nelson, an Orthodox Jew who is coroner for neighbouring Greater Manchester North was also asked to intervene.
Refusing to comment on the case, which is not within his jurisdiction, Mr Nelson, however, slammed some of the communal protests as "an absolute disgrace and chillul Hashem".
He said: "The nature and persistence of the protests outside the coroner's house and court brings great shame on the community.
"People who are purportedly assisting a grieving family have a complete lack of understanding of the law of the coroner."
The case came as a great shock to the Manchester Jewish community which has always prided itself with its excellent relationship with coroners and was the first in the country to pilot MRI scans as an alternative to post-mortems.
Manchester Beth Din's Rabbi Yehuda Brodie refused to comment.
Here is a comment left by Simon Nelson on Yeshiva World's post. Nelson explains the delay in releasing the body, and also details the misbehavior of haredim toward the Manchester coroner:
I was apppointed Her Majesty’s Coroner for Greater Manchester North in 2002. Before taking up my office I consulted with Rav O Westheim. My jurisdiction of 650,000 people includes the Borough of Bury and within that the kehillos of Prestwich and Whitefield.I am one of 115 or so full-time Coroners nationwide. The Coroner is wholly independent.
I was greatly saddened to learn after Shabbos of the sudden and tragic death of baby Dresdner.
I have always made myself available out of hours for the kehilloh and my contact number has been on the Beis Din Luach for many years.
I was contacted by Rav Weiss last Monday evening and advised on both the law and practice in respect of an appeal against the decision of the Manchester City Coroner. There are Solicitors in Manchester who specialise in this area of law.
Local Askonim-in particular Rav Shlomo Adler have worked tirelessly behind the scenes for many years both with Coroners, the NHS and Government departments with the result that the four Manchester Coroners offer MRI scanning for those within and beyond the kehilloh.Rav Adler is recognised nationally for his endeavours. There remains considerable opposition to the use of MRI scanning by Coroners outside Greater Manchester.
The actions of certain misguided individuals in attempting to influence the Manchester Coroner have done incalculable harm to the wider kehilloh and amount in my view to a chillul hashem.
Whenever a person dies in England/Wales in order for the death to be registered and then for a burial to take place either a medical certificate as to the cause of death has to be issued by a doctor who has attended the deceased during their last illness or the death has to be reported to the Coroner. Baby Dresdner died suddenly and no doctor was in the position to issue a certificate.
The Manchester Coroner personally spoke to the family GP who confirmed he was unable to issue the death certificate. The Coroner agreed to conduct an MRI scan which took place on Sunday and thereafter personally spoke to the Consultant Radiologist on Sunday evening who was unable to offer a cause of death.The Coroner decided to authorise a post mortem to be conducted by a Specialist paediatric pathologist.
A request was made on behalf of the family that the post mortem examination be delayed pending representations.The Coroner saw the representatives at 5.30 on Monday evening.
Sadly the examination was delayed on Tuesday because the skeletal (x-ray) survey had not been carried out.
It was wholly unacceptable for the Coroners wife and children to be distressed by the need for police protection outside their because of the planned demonstration by the kehilloh
It was wholly unacceptable for the Coroner to be personally bombarded with over 600 emails which detracted from his ability to deal with the many other tragic deaths in his office.
It is unacceptable for his staff to be called ‘anti-semites’
It is unacceptable in an email for the Coroner’s actions to be described as ‘an attack on all Jews’
It is unacceptable for a member of the kehilloh to purport to communicate as a solicitor and write to the Coroner ‘that in Jewish law a parent is punished by G-D for not burying a body on the same day it dies’
The Manchester Coroner himself has written ‘Uniquely in England and Wales I and my colleagues locally will allow MRI scanning and this does not happen in other parts of the Country’The actions of many within the kehilloh in ignoring the advice given have severly affected the goodwill that has been bulit up over many years with the local Coroners
I am always available to discuss and advise.
Comment by nelsonsr — February 25, 2010 @ 4:44 am
In other words, the coroner had no way to determine the cause of death short of an autopsy. The family and the haredi community opposed the autopsy and asked for a delay in order to block it. The delay was granted.
This sequence accounted for most of the 'delay.'
The truth is, knowing what killed that baby is a legitimate public health issue. It could save lives.
But haredim define the saving of life narrowly with regard to autopsy. Basically, if a Jew is dying in the immediate area, and an autopsy on a Jew could provide information that saves his life, the autopsy would often be permitted. But if that dying Jew is located elsewhere, is not haredi, is a non-Jew, etc., then – unless public reaction could endanger the haredi community – the autopsy will often be opposed.
But the potential saving of life of unknown or unspecified people generally doesn't meet the haredi bar for allowing autopsies.
And that means the vast majority of autopsies are opposed.
It also means medical and public health advances that save lives – including haredi lives – have to come from autopsies done on non-haredim.
[Hat Tip: R.]