To redeem them from death. Reactions of family members to autopsy

Am J Med. 1986 Apr;80(4):665-71. doi: 10.1016/0002-9343(86)90822-3.


Attitudes towards autopsy were examined in family members of 102 subjects who died in a university teaching hospital. The majority of responding families (88 percent) considered autopsy beneficial. Families permitting autopsy identified advancement of medical knowledge, comfort in knowing the cause of death, and reassurance that all appropriate care was given as the most important benefits. Fifty-five percent of the families of 40 subjects not undergoing autopsy declined permission and 45 percent had not been asked for such permission. The most frequent reasons given for not wanting autopsy were disfigurement of the body, stress of permitting autopsy, lack of information about autopsy, and family members' objections. Twenty-seven percent of 62 families permitting autopsy did not learn its results. Family members receiving results complained about long delays in receiving and complex terminology of autopsy reports. These findings suggest need for improvement in obtaining consent for autopsy, reporting autopsy results, and educating and counseling families of dying patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Death*
  • Autopsy*
  • Family*
  • Humans