Emergency medicine and its academic teaching programs face an ethical dilemma surrounding the question of practicing procedures on the newly dead. For many years, procedures have been practiced on the newly dead, but few institutions have had policies addressing the practice. This article considers the ethical arguments both for and against practicing procedures on the newly dead without consent, reviews the empirical studies on the subject, and presents the positions of other professional societies, before concluding with the position of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM). SAEM strongly encourages all emergency medicine training programs to develop a policy and make that policy available to the institution, educators, trainees, and the public. The practice should not occur behind closed doors or on an ad hoc basis without clearly articulated guidelines. With improvements in technology, including patient simulation and virtual reality, the need for the practice may decrease, but there is no current evidence that is compelling regarding the best methods of teaching procedural skills. Given the importance of protecting trust in the profession of medicine and the existing evidence that the public would expect that consent be obtained, SAEM recommends that families be asked for consent prior to practicing procedures on the newly dead.
- Society for Academic Emergency Medicine
- newly dead