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Attitudes to perinatal postmortem: parental views about research participation


Objective To study parental attitudes to participating in questionnaire research about perinatal postmortem immediately after late miscarriage, stillbirth and termination for fetal abnormality.

Design Prospective self-completion questionnaire.

Setting UK fetal medicine and delivery unit.

Patients 35 women and their partners after second or third trimester pregnancy loss, making decisions about having a postmortem.

Methods Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about postmortem decision-making which included questions about their attitudes to taking part in research. Prior to giving full approval for the study, the Research Ethics Committee (REC) requested feedback after 10 questionnaires had been returned.

Results Responses from the first 10 participants were positive about the research and the REC allowed the study to continue. 31 questionnaires were received from parents of 17 babies (49% of those asked; 16 from mothers, 15 from fathers). Of the 22 participants who answered a question about the impact of participating in this research, 73% stated that completing the questionnaire had helped them feel better about the decision whether or not to consent to postmortem and none reported any adverse effect of completing the questionnaire. Additional comments made by 19 participants supported this finding.

Conclusion Research into this sensitive area of perinatal medicine where there is a poor outcome is possible and is indeed well received by many parents. RECs should not automatically take a negative stance towards studies of this type.

  • Autopsy/postmortem
  • bereavement
  • fetal death
  • decision-making
  • research ethics
  • ethics committees/consultation
  • informed consent
  • policy guidelines/inst. review boards/review cttes

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