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Swedish med students perform prof's autopsy

TT/The Local/vt · 17 Dec 2010, 13:02

Published: 17 Dec 2010 13:02 GMT+01:00

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According to the course coordinators, the incident was "extremely unfortunate," but they assert that the name of the body is always communicated in advance of each autopsy.

A medical student's first autopsy tends to be an intense and trying experience in itself. The revelation that the body was their former instructor made the occasion all the more difficult.

"I was super-shocked," one of the students told the TT news agency about his reaction when he saw the body on the bench.

None of the students spoke up when the autopsy technician got to work. However, several testified that the mood was tense and they began whispering to each other. They then tried to concentrate on the task at hand.

"The first autopsy is very emotional and we autopsied someone we knew," another student told TT.

Several students admitted that they have thought a lot about the incident afterward and wonder whether it was really proper for them to have been exposed to such a situation.

"I spontaneously feel that something fell through the cracks in the procedures," one student confessed.

Professor Birgitta Sundelin, the chief physician who was responsible for the course at the time, regrets the incident.

"It was extremely unfortunate. This is the first time I have encountered something like this," she said.

She said that it is routine to tell the class the name of the person to be autopsied ahead of time and that the school did so in this case. However, according to the students, they did not see the name until they could read it from the corpse's toe tag.

In addition, no one at KI had informed the hospital that the students would possibly be offended by the subject whose autopsy they going to perform.

Professor Tina Dalianis, the head of the department, has been informed of the incident. She said she sympathises with the students and that the incident must have been extremely difficult for them, but she does not think that the school has done anything wrong.

"It is really terrible, but it is part of education sometimes. Unfortunately, they must deal with it," she said.

The president of Sweden's Medical Students Association (Medicine Studerandes Förbund, MSF) was outraged by the school's response.

Story continues below…

"Very unfortunate. Students should not have to feel uneasy during their education," said Maria Ehlin Kolk, who is also a medical student at Umeå University.

"It is important that an autopsy truly be the educational opportunity that it should be. The question is how much these students learned from the situation," she added.

Kolk thinks it sounds like KI need to tighten up its procedures and tell students in advance that they have the right to speak up if they know the person on the autopsy table.

"All universities should work out such procedures and documents," she said.

TT/The Local/vt (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:34 December 17, 2010 by Streja
Karolinska typo twice in this piece.

Horrible story!
13:40 December 17, 2010 by JulieLou40
I agree. Horrible story, and the usual shoddy spelling/grammar from The Local. But hang on a minute...did none of these students have the ability to speak? To say "Hang on...we know this man! We don't feel comfortable with this". But no. Nobody spoke out. Typical Swedish sheep. Too afraid to speak out in public, so they went ahead with what must have been a stomach churning task made worse by the fact they knew him.

Bet they wish they'd opened their mouths now.
13:50 December 17, 2010 by Tusker
Forget the negative implications of this incident.

They should be honoured to have been chosen to participate in the final act of giving, by a true teacher, who even in death, gave of themself in the role of healer.
13:53 December 17, 2010 by Shibumi
Agree with JulieLou here... if you "wonder if it is proper to be exposed to such a situation" then speak up for pete's sake! What if it turned out to be your own dad on the autopsy table? Would you speak out then? C'mon! Take some responsibility for your life instead of passively submitting to whatever happens and then "wonder" about it later!
14:14 December 17, 2010 by hjoian
a certain amount of emotional detatchment is needed in a job like this, good practice i say. Future doctors do not have the choice to pick and choose their patients, so this is a good trail for the students involved.....glad to see they got on with the job in hand.
14:15 December 17, 2010 by Strongbow
Stop writing every sentence in its own paragraph.
15:10 December 17, 2010 by foxpur

It is not unusual that a autopsy subject will be known by the initial doctor performing the autopsy, it is ALSO common the doctor is offered to have another doctor take their place because of emotional reaction. A doctor in California I knew was given his brother-in-law as a subject and they asked him to step out as policy.
15:11 December 17, 2010 by thebittertruth
what do you expect from Skroog's country?
16:29 December 17, 2010 by mojofat
Surprise! You're on candid camera!
16:49 December 17, 2010 by Nemesis
Gives a teaching practical, a whole new meaning.
16:59 December 17, 2010 by adigunbabatunde@yahoo.com

" Typical Swedish sheep. Too afraid to speak out in public, so they went ahead with what must have been a stomach churning task made worse by the fact they knew him. Bet they wish they'd opened their mouths now."

Does that remind you of latest events, JA and 2 one-nights.

suffer/enjoy now complain later.

I feel for the students and i hope they learnt at all in their first lecture
17:30 December 17, 2010 by Streja
I meant horrible for the students, not horrible article.....

18:44 December 17, 2010 by MarkinBoston
So if an automobile accident victim comes into the hospital and they know the person, will they be paralyzed with... discomfort? What's the problem? Once you're dead, you're meat. Doctors need to be able to dissociate themselves from emotional discomfort when OTHER people are panicing. This was a good lesson for them - toughen up.
21:49 December 17, 2010 by zooeden
for once you´re right Mark...
03:11 December 18, 2010 by Yimp
By "autopsy", does this mean that the med students were simply doing a post-mortem exam, a one-time experience?

In med school in the US, we spend 6 months with one cadaver that we thoroughly dissect. Sounds like it's done differently in Sweden.

I was told the age and cause of death of my cadaver, but I never knew their name.
21:29 December 18, 2010 by dtes
i wonder what makes swedes so damn sheepish, i really dont understand, its almost to a point of retardation.
06:14 December 19, 2010 by OgieMorten
What the heck was that? I dont want to watch someone I knew be autopsied, I'll be sick to death watching it. So Horrible.

13:35 December 20, 2010 by scientist22
Yimp, what you are referring to is the dissection during gross anatomy. What the article refers to is a coroner's inquest (autopsy)
23:17 December 20, 2010 by Da Goat
This article and what happened is completely wrong in it's sentiment

the students should be honoured to be there for their teacher (what dedication by the teacher to even teach his students after death)!

this is the best possible outcome as the students if they ever have to perform a post mortem in future there will be a huge chance that it will be one of their own patients, who they know even better than their teacher maybe!

grow some balls medicos.

it should not matter if the person is alive or gone they should treat them just the same !

maybe the students are not cut out for the job and need to find something else to do, maybe the names of the students needs to be published so we don't go to them in the future. could they be inept in their professionalism!

haveing to do an honourable service for their teacher should be the best thing they could hope to do! would teach them to care for people dead or alive!
13:40 January 5, 2011 by ffeingo2
A final giving gesture by a dedicated teacher with a sense of humor. I think it grand. My leftovers are to be sent to our medical school.
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