For three years, Senator Simcha Felder and Assemblyman Mike Simanowitz have been working together to protect the dignity of the deceased. Now the New York State Senate and Assembly have passed their bill to prohibit the release of unclaimed bodies without the consent of the deceased’s spouse or next of kin.
“Currently, unclaimed bodies can be released after only 48 hours,” said Senator Felder. “In many cases, family would object to what takes place after the body is released. People want to bury their loved ones according to their own traditions, but by the time they discover their loss, it’s often too late. Our bill would require the written consent of a spouse or next of kin before an unclaimed body can be released.”
“Our current laws do not protect the religious or personal rights of New Yorkers,” said Assemblyman Simanowitz. “We have seen repeated cases of unclaimed bodies delivered for dissection without consideration of religious or personal wishes. This has caused much grief for loved ones who are already mourning their loss. Our legislation would ensure that without consent from next of kin or the deceased, all unclaimed bodies would be respectfully buried.
“This is about respect for the dead— it’s about decency,” said Rabbi Yaakov Meyer, Director and Founder of Misaskim in applauding Senator Felder’s bill. “Just as New York State requires a signed consent for donating organs, it should certainly require consent before allowing a body to be used for teaching purposes.”
Simanowitz and Felder recognized Dr. Barbara Sampson, the Chief Medical Examiner, New York City, as well as Simcha Eichenstein from Mayor de Blasio’s Office of State Legislative Affairs, for their efforts on behalf of the bill.
“I’m very pleased that both the Senate and Assembly agreed overwhelming that unclaimed bodies should be treated with respect,” added Senator Felder.
The bill now awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature.