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Cross sectional survey of parents' experience and views of the postmortem examination

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Judith Rankin, Dr Thomas Lind


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Objective To describe parents' experience and views of the postmortem examination after the loss of a baby. Design Cross sectional survey, Setting Hospital with a dedicated bereavement counselling service, Newcastle upon Tyne. Participants 258 women who had attended a bereavement counselling service at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, on at least one occasion after losing a baby, during pregnancy or infancy, between October 1996 and October 2000. Method Self completion postal questionnaire incorporating fixed choice and open ended questions. Main outcome measures Number of respondents who were asked if they would agree to a postmortem examination of their baby, and number who agreed to a postmortem examination; reasons for agreeing and not agreeing to a postmortem examination; quality, of explanation received; number who regretted their decision to give or withhold consent for a postmortem examination. Results 166 (64%) respondents completed the questionnaire. Of these, 148 (89%) had been asked to agree to a postmortem examination on their baby and 120/148 of these respondents (81%) agreed, most of whom recognised benefits resulting from the examination. 101/117 (86%) respondents believed the findings had been explained appropriately. Nine (7%) of the 120 respondents who had agreed to a postmortem examination regretted their decision. Of the respondents who refused an examination, four (14%) had regrets about their decision. Discussion Parents viewed the postmortem examination as a useful and necessary tool in helping to discover the reasons why their baby had died. Simplifying the language used to explain findings may further raise parents' understanding of the,,value of the postmortem examination and ensure that they are satisfied with it. Medical staff involved in consent for postmortem examinations should be fully trained in how to ask for parental consent, the postmortem examination procedure, and how to explain the findings.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rankin J; Lind T; Wright C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Medical Journal

Year: 2002

Volume: 324

Issue: 7341

Pages: 816-818

ISSN (print): 0007-1447

ISSN (electronic): 1468-5833

Publisher: BMJ Group


DOI: 10.1136/bmj.324.7341.816


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