In perspective of the declining autopsy rate. Attitudes of the public

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 1994 Sep;118(9):878-83.


The autopsy rate is declining, probably due to attitude changes. However, attitudes toward the autopsy have been sparsely studied, public opinion evidently not at all. The present study has, therefore, investigated the attitudes and reactions of the public toward autopsy as a basis for a new autopsy act in Sweden. An age-stratified, random sample of 1950 individuals in Sweden was surveyed. Eighty-four percent reported acceptance of an autopsy for themselves and 80% for next of kin. However, 70% felt discomfort at the thought of autopsy. Irrespective of the attitudes, the most common source of discomfort was the thought of the dead body being cut up, followed by fear of being disrespectful of the dead person. Sociodemographic factors were only weakly correlated to attitudes. The most impressive finding was that older women were the most hesitant or negative group concerning the autopsy, both for themselves and for relatives. The low autopsy rate is evidently not connected with the public's negative attitudes. Even if discomfort reactions are general, rational factors dominate. Thus, it is up to the medical community to use this positive opinion to let the autopsy regain its role of quality guarantee.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Attitude*
  • Autopsy / psychology
  • Autopsy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Opinion*
  • Random Allocation
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden