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Importance of explanation before and after forensic autopsy to the bereaved family: lessons from a questionnaire study
  1. Takako Ito1,2,
  2. Koichi Nobutomo1,
  3. Tatsuya Fujimiya3,
  4. Ken-ichi Yoshida2
  1. 1Department of Health Services Management & Policy, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan
  2. 2Department of Forensic Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan
  3. 3Department of Legal medicine, Yamaguchi University Graduate School of Medicine, Yamaguchi, Japan
  1. Correspondence to Professor Ken-ichi Yoshida, Department of Forensic Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, Hongo 3-1-1, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan; kyoshida{at}


To investigate how bereaved families felt about the explanation received before and after forensic autopsies, the authors conducted a cross-sectional survey of the bereaved families whose next of kin underwent a forensic autopsy at the two Departments of Forensic Medicine and a few bereaved families of crime victims. Of 403 questionnaires sent, 126 families responded. Among 81.5% of the respondents who received an explanation from policemen before the autopsy, 78.8% felt that the quality of the explanation was poor or improper. In Japan, the law has restricted disclosure of information from a forensic autopsy. Despite legal restrictions, 82% wanted to hear from the person who conducted the autopsy. However, police explained the results of autopsy to 65.2% of respondents. Among the families whose frustration and anger increased after autopsy, 86.4% had not been satisfied with the explanation before the autopsy. Additionally, 57.7% had not been informed on the autopsy findings at the time of the questionnaire when more than 2 years had passed after the autopsy. These results reminded us of the importance of an explanation before and shortly after a forensic autopsy for a better understanding and acceptance by bereaved families.

  • Law
  • social work
  • education for healthcare professionals
  • informed consent
  • family

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  • Funding Research Fellowship on the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for Young Scientists to the first author.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the this study was approved by the Ethics Boards of the University of Tokyo, Graduate Schools of Medicine and in the Faculty of Medicine.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

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

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