Orthodox man stumped as amputated leg buried

By Dan Friedman, August 21, 2014
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When Orthodox Moshe Lefkowitz agreed to have his left leg amputated, for religious reasons he wanted it to be buried with him when he died.

So he was stunned when he later discovered that hospital staff had cremated the leg, even though he claimed they assured him it would not be.

Mr Lefkowitz, 43, never saw the consent forms he signed because he is blind. But he insisted that a nurse and a rabbi affiliated to the hospital told him that the forms related to the surgery only and that his wish would be granted.

He claimed $100,000 damages from the hospital in Skokie, a Chicago suburb, but a judge dismissed the claim. An appeal court overruled that decision and a new hearing is now due.

A court date has yet to be set and neither he nor the hospital will comment on the case, although it is understood that the hospital is insisting there should be no recourse for "clergy malpractice".

There are three reasons why observant Jews might want to keep an amputated limb.

First, the body is viewed as a vehicle for the soul to do mitzvot. Like any material object that helps humans achieve divine commandments - a tefillin strap, for example - it should be treated with respect.

Second, the human body is seen as being on loan from God, so should not be defaced.

Finally, according to some traditions, when the Messiah comes, there will be mass-physical resurrection and, consequently, bodies should be kept together.

    Last updated: 2:27pm, August 21 2014