Ethical Considerations On Using Autopsy In Medical Process Of Learning And Research


  • Daniela Marienescu Transilvania University of Brasov


autopsy, benefit, ethics, human body/corpse, learning


Autopsy has always been the foundation of medical educational and biomedical research process. During time, post-mortem examinations had a main role in training and forming of medical professionals; many generations of doctors have learned anatomy, pathology and physiopathology at the autopsy room, at autopsy table; results of post-mortem examinations, through pre and post mortem findings have represented the foundation for most of modern medicine knowledge.
Medical students, by attending autopsies, acquire anatomy and pathology information, so, they have the possibility of better understanding the clinical-pathological co-relations, also they have the possibility of differentiating the two types of autopsies (clinical and forensic) and in which cases they choose one or the other.
Another important aspect regards the possibility of knowing legal and ethical aspects relating to death, including how to certify death and filling in a death certificate.
Using autopsy as a teaching tool is a great benefit in medical educational process; visual experiences one has while taking part in an autopsy process last for long and can not be replaced by alternative methods (virtual autopsies and computer software).
From ethical point of view, the acceptability of using autopsy in medical learning process and in medical research is of high complexity due to potential ethical conflict between the necessity and benefit of using autopsy or dissections in the learning process/medical research and the right to physical integrity of a person (even if deceased) whose lifeless body is subjected to post-mortem examination procedures.


Sanchez, H., Ursell, P. (2001). Use of autopsy cases for integrating and applying the first two years of medical education. Acad Med, 76(5), 530 – 531

Charlton, R. (1994). Autopsy and medical education: a review. J R Soc Med, 87(4), 232 – 236

Hill, R.B., Anderson, R.E. (1996). The recent history of the autopsy. Arch Pathol Lab Med,120, 702 – 712

O‘Grady, G. (2008). Death of the teaching autopsy. BMJ, 327(7418), 802 – 804

Talmon G. (2010). The Use of Autopsy in Preclinical Medical Education A Survey of Pathology Educators. Arch Pathol Lab Med, 134, 1047 – 1053

Parker, L.M. (2002). What's wrong with the dead body?. Med J Aust, 176(2), 74 – 76

Older, J. (2004) Anatomy: a must for teaching the next generation, Surgeon, 2, 79 – 90 [8] Jadav, J.C., Patel, B.N., Ashah, K., Tandon, R.N. (2013). Knowledge and Attitude of Medical Students on Forensic Autopsy in Ahmedabad City. J Indian Acad Forensic Med. Vol.35, No.1, ISSN 0971-0973

Fernando R. (1990). Sudden unexpected death due to familial hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy. Forensic Sci Int, 46, 285 – 288 [10] Morar, S., Perju-Dumbravă, D., Cristian, A. (2008). Aspecte Etice și Legale ale Utilizării Cadavrului Uman în Scop Didactic și Ştiințific. Revista Română de Bioetică, Vol.6, Nr.4