Study objective: To determine whether family members of recently deceased emergency department patients would consent to the performance of a cricothyrotomy on the deceased for educational purposes.
Design: Prospective study.
Setting: Suburban tertiary care teaching hospital.
Participants: Family members of 51 patients older than 18 years who were pronounced dead in the ED from atraumatic causes.
Interventions: Family members were approached by an attending physician for consent to perform a cricothyrotomy as a learning opportunity for physicians on their recently deceased family members. If consent was given, the procedure was performed by an emergency medicine resident physician under the attending physician's supervision.
Results: Of 51 deaths, 20 families (39%) consented to postmortem cricothyrotomy, 23 families (45%) refused consent, and 8 families (16%) were too distraught to be approached for consent. All 20 families that consented to the procedure were white, with little representation from other ethnic groups.
Conclusion: Although there are difficulties in obtaining consent to perform invasive procedures on the recently deceased in the ED for educational purposes, our study demonstrates that many families will consent to such procedures if adequate information and explanation are provided. The results of this study may not be applicable to institutions serving patients with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.