There have unfortunately been cases of tragic and unusual deaths, r”l. When that happens, the chevra kadisha and other organizations are thrust into dealing with authorities, as they attempt to preserve kavod hames and get the niftar released quickly.
Misaskim has always advocated for the prevention of autopsies in the community and has been instrumental in working with the medical examiners’ offices to preserve the kedusha of countless niftarim. Now, a promising future for autopsy prevention is on the horizon. A new CT scan machine has been installed at the medical examiner’s office in Newark, New Jersey. In many instances, the machine can be used in place of autopsies. This is ground-breaking for our community in the event of a tragic death, r”l, as the machine minimizes the desecration of the mes.
Dr. Andrew Falzon, M.D., the Chief State Medical Examiner in New Jersey, is behind this initiative. Dr. Falzon oversees 2 regional medical examiner offices in New Jersey. The first is located in the north—in Newark—and covers Essex, Hudson, Passaic, and Somerset counties. The second is located in the South—in Woodbine—and covers Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland counties. Dr. Alex Zhang is the deputy chief, and he manages the office in Newark, NJ, where the machine is located. Misaskim met with them recently to learn more about this incredible machine.
The machine can be used for diagnostic purposes in the event of a tragic or untimely death, and this is a game-changer when there is a religious objection to an autopsy. The CT scan machine is commonplace in clinical settings, but rare to find in medical examiners’ offices. Lakewood and several other communities have sometimes used CT scan machines in hospitals after an unusual death. However, this is the first time a medical examiner’s office in the tri-state area has a machine there on hand.
It’s important to note that the machine won’t fully replace the job of an autopsy. There are certain things that can’t be identified with a CT scan machine, such as Pulmonary Thromboembolism and certain other situations, or when there’s a need for a tissue sample. However, the machine can provide a lot of information without making a single cut, and is exceptionally skilled at detecting trauma—even more so than an autopsy.
With the onset of the pandemic, it took time to get the operation rolling —but now it’s ready. This is part of a series of upgrades that the Newark office is implementing in an effort to better serve our community’s needs. The operation is being funded with grant money, which the team at Newark chose to use for the CT scan machine. Misaskim is greatly appreciative of that decision.
Dr. Falzon is no stranger to the Jewish community. After the deadly shooting in Jersey City, he was all hands on deck, ensuring the bodies were released as soon as possible. And now, with the CT scan machine, he is here for us again. Dr. Falzon and his team have been exceptionally receptive and helpful. “The sensitivity Dr. Falzon and his team have shown our community until now, is exemplary. They’ve worked hand-in-hand with us to get cases out in a timely fashion, bringing niftarim to kivrei yisroel as quickly as possible,” says Yankie Meyer, founder and director of Misaskim. “We’re grateful to Dr. Falzon and the state of New Jersey for introducing an innovative solution that will surely be tremendously helpful for our community. They are the trailblazers in the industry, and we sincerely hope that other medical examining offices across the country will follow suit.”