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Necropsies have value in medical education

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Medical educators in the UK still believe necropsy is a valuable educational resource despite recent negative publicity, curricular revisions and declining use of the procedure.

A “theoretical sample” of teaching staff from Sheffield University Medical School completed a semistructured private interview designed to clarify their personal attitudes towards necropsy. Similar statements were grouped together as themes, of which nine were identified at the completion of data gathering and included: a readiness of the participants to consent to their own necropsy; a high degree of clinical detachment from emotions linked to necropsy; and a willingness to consent to necropsy on a close relative. Some participants raised concern that necropsy objectified the human body, whilst others felt the procedure increased the respect paid to the deceased.

The wide range (and occasionally conflicting nature) of responses received in the study reflects the theoretical sampling undertaken. Interestingly, participants who would not give consent for a close relative to receive necropsy stated that it was due to their religious beliefs rather than any doubts about the educational value of necropsy.