Physicians and surgeons are working hard to secure legislation which will secure them the right to make autopsies when they feel that the interests of science demand it. Is there any ecclesiastical decree concerning the matter? There is in Catholic hospitals a very pronounced opposition to the practice, so pronounced that not a few inquire whether the Church has legislated on the matter.
The Church, as far as we have been able to ascertain, has never legislated explicitly in the matter of autopsies. She has, as everyone knows, enacted laws in regard to cremation, and, while these decrees do not, of course, prohibit the dissection of the human body, they suggest that consideration for the bodies of the dead as "temples of the Holy Ghost" should have weight in every case. On the other hand, as cremation is allowed in exceptional cases, so the dissection of the human body is allowed in the interests of science. The rights of the relatives are safeguarded by civil law, and as long as the law does not permit the indiscriminate practice of autopsy, relatives of the deceased have it in their power to secure proper respect for the dead. We doubt whether a law leaving the matter to the discretion of the physicians interested in the case would be entirely wise.