Ethics seminars: the practice of medical procedures on newly dead patients--is consent warranted?

Acad Emerg Med. 2001 Apr;8(4):389-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2001.tb02119.x.


The use of the newly dead to teach procedures is widely practiced in training institutions. This model allows a realistic opportunity both to become more familiar with lifesaving maneuvers before they are actually necessary and to maintain proficiency. Whether to notify the next of kin first has been an issue of ethical debate. Some argue a "don't ask, don't tell" policy is justified, while others mandate open consent by family members prior to the practice. Several medical studies have found that patients and families are likely to consent to the procedures but prefer to be asked permission first. Multiple legal cases have addressed the issue of usage of cadavers postmortem without expressed permission. Earlier cases emphasized the concept of "pseudo-property" rights and declared that the next of kin do not have constitutional ownership of the deceased person's body. More recent legal cases are declaring that families do, in fact, possess these rights. In this day and age of increasing recognition of personal autonomy, it is probably prudent to approach the next of kin for permission before performing procedures on the newly deceased.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Death*
  • Cadaver
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / education*
  • Consent Forms / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac
  • Emergency Medicine / education*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Family
  • Heart Arrest / therapy
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / methods
  • Ownership / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Third-Party Consent*
  • United States