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Funeral directors, mortuaries and necropsies: implications for necropsy consent rates and the prevention of infection.
  1. R D Start,
  2. A Dube,
  3. S S Cross,
  4. J C Underwood
  1. Department of Pathology, Sheffield University Medical School.


    AIM: To evaluate the attitudes and experiences of funeral directors in relation to necropsies. METHODS: All 1631 members of the National Association of Funeral Directors were surveyed by postal questionnaire about the purposes of necropsies, the technical and administrative problems associated with necropsied cases and their relations with relatives, mortuaries and pathology departments. RESULTS: In total, 123 funeral directors completed the questionnaire (8% response rate). Workload, proportion of cases necropsied and type of mortuary did not influence answers. Necropsies were considered important for the assessment of treatment outcome, identification of inherited disease and junior pathologist training, but not for medical audit. There was strong support for more education about necropsies. The areas of necropsy practice most frequently discussed with relatives related to concerns about funeral delay and the involvement of the coroner or equivalent authority. Funeral directors occasionally counselled relatives for or against giving necropsy consent. The commonest technical problems associated with necropsies were difficulties in embalming, leakage of body fluids and scalpel penetration in visible areas. Few administrative problems were reported; the commonest was inflexibility in body collection times. There was strong support for a national code of practice to cover relations between funeral directors and mortuaries despite general satisfaction with relations with local pathology departments. CONCLUSIONS: Although the relation among the funeral profession, mortuaries and pathology departments is largely satisfactory, a national code of practice for funeral directors and mortuaries is desirable.

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