When families ask whether they should get an autopsy, what will you tell them?
When I was a nursing student at the University of Michigan, we learned anatomy by working on human cadavers. The experience left me with a deep appreciation for the beauty of the human body (even when ravaged by disease) and fundamentally shaped my view of a nurse’s role in health and healing.
The Viewpoint essay in the August issue of AJN, “When Families Ask About an Autopsy,” reemphasizes the role of the human body as a teaching tool. Author Billie Holladay Skelley points out that autopsies can also
- provide definitive answers about the cause of death (offering reassurance to family members).
- reveal undiagnosed genetic conditions.
- improve our understanding of diseases and disease trends.
- and foster advances in treatment.
Virtual or minimally invasive autopsies may be more acceptable to some families while still offering some of the benefits of a full autopsy. […]