Second and third year medical students were invited to write down their comments about necropsies during a pilot study of a postal questionnaire on the subject. Their comments were analysed in detail on the following aspects: about how useful and necessary a procedure the necropsy is in medical practice and in education; their personal distaste for the procedure; whether attendance at a necropsy should remain a compulsory part of a medical education; staff attitudes; observance of relatives' wishes; and feelings about necropsies carried out on self or relatives. The data collated from the questionnaire showed that, although students regard the necropsy as useful in clinical practice, a single demonstration does not clarify what its uses are. For some, the necropsy represents disrespect to its subject, and few students seemed aware of the use of the necropsy as an instrument of quality control. It is concluded that the unpleasant aspects of a necropsy demonstration should be kept to a minimum to encourage attendance and promote a sense of its value, and that it might be useful to influence and modify students' opinions before they become entrenched, perhaps by giving a higher priority to training in discussing dying and death in the medical curricula.
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