Autopsy and grief: a case of transformative postmortem examination.
BACKGROUND: A physician's obligations to deliver compassionate care do not end with a patient's death. When a patient dies there remains a responsibility to assist grieving family members. Unfortunately, many physicians feel ill prepared to assist in the bereavement process, not knowing what to say or how to say it. Although underutilized, the medical autopsy can play an important role in families' grief processes, particularly in those cases wherein uncertainties exist regarding the ultimate cause of death. DISCUSSION: Here we postulate a role for the medical autopsy in assisting families through the grief process, which we demonstrate via an illustrative case. Effective communication of these results to family members is the key to its therapeutic effect.
LeBlanc, TW; Tulsky, JA; Simel, DL
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