A woman gave birth to a child in a private hospital. Due to negligence, both she and her child died. Three months afterwards, her husband wants to exhume the corpse to establish the medical error. What is the ruling on exhuming a grave after this span of time to establish a medical error?
All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and messenger.
In principle, it is forbidden to exhume graves due to the sanctity and respect for the deceased. It is not permissible except for a reasonable benefit or necessity. The same is said for an autopsy after the exhumation. It is not permissible except for a strong and reasonable benefit that prevails over the harm.
The benefit here is not reasonable because allegation and suspicion are not enough to establish a ruling in order to exhume the grave of that woman. Also, the span of time in question leaves little doubt that her body has begun to decompose. Defiling her corpse, degrading her sanctity and the unsightliness of an autopsy after decomposition are all great evils that are not comparable to some assumed benefit. Averting such evils takes precedence over such benefits. Likewise, the family of the woman and her close relatives must give permission for this act and the husband alone has no right to approve it.
We do not see it being permissible, under these circumstances, to exhume the grave of this woman and perform an autopsy on her corpse due to the great harms involved. Even if there is some benefit in it, it is weak, imaginary and has no power over deflecting those harms. It is not possible to lift this ruling, which is the prohibition of exhuming graves and the sanctity of and respect for the deceased.
Allaah Knows best.
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