Interview With Next Of

In most institutions, the attending physician will explain the cause of death to the family of the deceased. However, after autopsy permission has been granted, the next of kin may want detailed information about the autopsy findings. In this instance, the attending physician should discuss the matter with the pathologist and either personally convey the preliminary autopsy findings to the family or schedule an interview with the pathologist. Letters describing the autopsy findings are often delayed, and as a rule, they are a poor alternative for an interview—letters cannot respond to unexpected problems and questions, and their preparation may be just as time-consuming as an interview. The granting of permission for an autopsy is a favor, and failure to inform the family speedily about the autopsy findings understandably causes anger and frustration.

Most hospitals have a "Quiet Room," often close to the religious center and chapel, for relatives of the deceased who wish privacy. This is also a proper place for the attending physician or the pathologist to meet after an autopsy had been done. It does not take much more than tact, compassion, and understanding to adjust to the emotional needs of the bereaved family members. Another important and often overlooked aspect of the interview with the next of kin is its role as a source of additional data. A patient with hepatic cirrhosis may have denied chronic alcoholism, but at the time of the interview the family may readily volunteer the information. An unexpected amebic abscess of the liver will prompt diligent inquiry about former residencies. A suicide may come to light.

An interview may serve to relieve feelings of hostility against the attending physicians, surgeons, or paramedical personnel. Many lawsuits originate from misunderstanding, misinformation, and lack of communication. The pathologist, at the time of the interview, may be the first one to sense such feelings. He may be able to provide the needed explanations, to correct misconceptions, or to realize the need for the attending physician to talk to the family about their concerns. The benefits of

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