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The attitudes of relatives to autopsy: a misconception
  1. Dimitris A Tsitsikas1,
  2. Morag Brothwell1,
  3. Jo-Anne Chin Aleong2,
  4. Andrew T Lister1
  1. 1Department of Haematological Oncology, St Bartholomew's Hospital, Barts and the London NHS Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Clinical Pathology, Barts and the London NHS Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Dimitris A Tsitsikas, Specialist Registrar in Haematology, St Bartholomew's Hospital, West Smithfield, London EC1A 7BE, UK; dimitristsitsikas{at}


Aim Hospital autopsy rates have been falling steadily over recent decades. One factor that has been implicated in this decline is the perception that the general public views postmortem examinations unfavourably and that this often makes clinicians reluctant to discuss autopsy with families and seek their consent. The aim of this study was to test this assumption.

Objectives/methods In the division of lymphoid malignancies at St Bartholomew's Hospital, we suggested autopsy and discussed it in depth with the families of all the patients who died in hospital in an 8-month period in order to assess whether the autopsy rate could be increased by improving the approach to the relatives.

Results Consent for a postmortem examination was requested in 18 of 23 cases and granted in 16 cases, giving a consent rate of 89%, and an overall rate of autopsy of 69.5%.

Conclusion The attitude of the general public is positive overall, and translates into high autopsy rates when the value of the examination is presented honestly and the details of the procedure are adequately explained.

  • Autopsy
  • communication skills
  • consent
  • haemato-oncology
  • medical education
  • postmortem
  • research

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  • Competing interests None to declare.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.