Perspectives on practicing procedures on the newly dead

Acad Emerg Med. 2002 Aug;9(8):786-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2002.tb02165.x.


Invasive procedures are commonly practiced and taught on newly deceased patients (the newly dead) in emergency and critical care settings. Justified by the claim of necessity for professional competence to provide lifesaving care, these procedures, commonly hidden from public and professional scrutiny, are frequently performed on the newly dead without consent from family or interested parties.

Objective: To describe older adults' beliefs about practicing and teaching lifesaving procedures on the newly dead and their belief about the requirement for consent for these procedures.

Methods: An exploratory, descriptive design used a seven-item Likert-type instrument with open-ended questions to gather data from a convenience sample of 100 adults in two metropolitan cities.

Results: The typical respondent was 74.5 years old (mean; range of 55-95 years), female (71%), and married (44.8%) or widowed (36.5%). Most respondents were high school graduates (94%), and 63% had some level of college education. The majority of the sample was white (75%), they were predominately Protestant (40%), and 72% reported their health as good to excellent. Most study participants believed that practicing or teaching lifesaving skills on a newly dead body is acceptable (54%), and that provision for consent is necessary (80%). Planning to donate organs and preferring an autopsy were associated with agreeing that using the newly dead body for skill practice was acceptable; preferring cremation was related to believing that consent for skill practice on the newly dead was not necessary.

Conclusions: The participants in this study value the use of the newly dead to practice and teach lifesaving skills, and believe that consent for this practice is necessary.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Cadaver
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Death*
  • Education, Medical / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Resuscitation / education*
  • Sampling Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires