University of Oulu

Pakanen, L., Tikka, J., Kuvaja, P. and Lunetta, P. (2022), Autopsy-Based Learning is Essential But Underutilized in Medical Education: A Questionnaire Study. Anat Sci Educ, 15: 341-351.

Autopsy-based learning is essential but underutilized in medical education : a questionnaire study

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Author: Pakanen, Lasse1,2; Tikka, Julius3; Kuvaja, Paula1,4;
Organizations: 1Forensic Medicine Unit, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Oulu, Finland
2Department of Forensic Medicine, Research Unit of Internal Medicine, Medical Research Center Oulu, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
3Forensic Medicine Unit, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Turku, Finland
4Department of Pathology, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
5Department of Biomedicine, Forensic Medicine, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-06-16


To this day, autopsies and dissections have been essential in medical education, but declining autopsy numbers have endangered this long-standing tradition. Students’ perceptions of these teaching methods should be constantly updated to help educators understand how to achieve their teaching goals. The purpose of this study was to explore the state of autopsy- and dissection-based teaching in two Finnish universities based on the experiences of the students, survey their perceptions of such teaching, and to compare the Finnish situation with students’ perceptions in other countries as it emerges from medical literature. A questionnaire went to 859 second-, fourth-, and sixth-year medical students. The questions concerned dissection and autopsy classes these students had attended, the views of the students in regard to the number of classes, and the benefits of and attitudes towards autopsy teaching. An open question of how to improve autopsy teaching was included. The response rate was 19.4%. Most respondents requested more autopsy and dissection classes, especially practical education. They found autopsies most beneficial in learning anatomy and dealing with one’s own emotions related to death. Their experiences proved least beneficial for interaction with the relatives of a deceased patient and for people skills. Integrational methods and focusing on the main learning outcomes were suggested as improvements. Overall, students found dissection and autopsy teaching important, but felt concerned about the diminishing autopsy numbers. Focusing on main learning objectives and better integration of autopsies in the teaching of different specialties could help to utilize autopsies to a greater extent.

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Series: Anatomical sciences education
ISSN: 1935-9772
ISSN-E: 1935-9780
ISSN-L: 1935-9772
Volume: 15
Issue: 2
Pages: 341 - 351
DOI: 10.1002/ase.2073
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3121 General medicine, internal medicine and other clinical medicine
Copyright information: © 2021 The Authors. Anatomical Sciences Education published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Association for Anatomy. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.