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attitude, autopsy, health personnel, mortality, Sweden



  1. Mjornheim, Berit
  2. Rosendahl, Anders
  3. Eriksson, Lennart C.
  4. Takman, Christina


Background: The rate of autopsies has dropped to low levels in Western countries.


Objective: The aim of this study was to describe the experiences and attitudes of registered nurses (RNs) and physicians (MD) toward clinical autopsies in neonatal and adult hospital care in Sweden.


Methods: RNs and MDs in neonatal and adult care specialized clinics at a university-affiliated hospital in Sweden were surveyed. Survey responses were tallied, and free-text comments were assessed with qualitative content analysis.


Results: Three hundred thirty-six surveys were distributed; the response rate was 35%. Most RNs and 14% of the MDs had limited or no experience participating in an autopsy. Notably, few RNs and approximately one third of the MDs were familiar with the autopsy processes and the treatment of the deceased person's body after an autopsy. More than one third of RNs had experience with talking to relatives regarding autopsy. Most agreed that an autopsy could be supportive for relatives during the grieving process and beneficial for the quality of healthcare. Most MDs (70%) thought that autopsies should be performed more frequently. Qualitative results emphasized that RNs and MDs thought that autopsy information supported the grieving process of relatives-especially parents who had lost a child.


Discussion: The survey data confirm belief in the value of clinical autopsies in neonatal and adult hospital care. RNs and MDs should receive training about the autopsy process and procedures for obtaining consent for an autopsy. RNs are in a position to support the decision making of relatives about providing consent for autopsy and have an opportunity to take a more active role in the autopsy process.