Professor and Head, Department of Anatomy, K.J. Somaiya Medical College, Somaiya Ayurvihar, Sion, Mumbai, India
The word autopsy is derived from the Greek word autopsia: "to see with one's own eyes" and the word Dissection is derived from Latin word dissecare: "to cut to pieces"; also called anatomization. Ethics in medicine focuses mainly on a doctor patient relationship and is referred to a patient alive. But ‘cadavers’ which are used in medicine and are an integral part of medical education, also have an important ethical value that necessitates a reverential attitude towards them. An autopsy which is known as a post-mortem examination or necropsy is performed by pathologists to determine the cause of death. They are also utilised for teaching and research purposes in medical colleges. A forensic autopsy is also a medicolegal autopsy. Forensic autopsies have legal implications and are performed to determine if death was an accident, homicide, suicide, or a natural event. Forensic autopsy or Medicolegal autopsy is performed as per the orders of the judiciary performing the investigation of sudden and unexpected, suspicious, obscure, unnatural, occupational or criminal deaths without the consent of relatives. Dissection of human cadavers is compulsory for medical education as it provides a rational and logical way for learning the structure of the human body, an efficient tool for surgeons to perfect their surgical skills and for researchers to carry out their studies.
Ethics regarding a ‘cadaver’ may seem strange or unusual but should be held in high esteem. The use of the cadaver within the activities of autopsy and dissection must be done with deep respect for the deceased, acknowledging the cadaver’s intrinsic moral-ethical value. The person’s right to confidentiality extends after death too. Hence autopsy findings are subject to professional secrecy; and this is mandatory in case of forensic or medicolegal autopsy. The cadaver should be treated with utmost respect by staff and students. At the end of the education process, the cadaver used for dissection should be given a proper and decent memorial service.
Keywords: Ethics; Medicine; Doctor Patient Relationship; Cadavers; Medical Education; Dissection; Autopsy; Forensic Autopsy; Teaching and Research Purposes; Legitimacy; Surgical Skills; Researchers; Respect; Memorial Service
Sharadkumar Pralhad Sawant and Shaheen Rizvi. “Autopsy and Dissection: The Ethical Dilemma”. EC Neurology 15.7 (2023): 39-44.
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