Exploring chronically ill seniors' attitudes about discussing death and postmortem medical procedures

Henry S. Perkins, Krysten J. Shepherd, Josie D. Cortez, Helen P. Hazuda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Proxy decisions about postmortem medical procedures must consider the dead patient's likely preferences. Ethnicand sex-based attitudes surely underlie such preferences but lack sufficient characterization to guide decisions. Therefore, this exploratory study interviewed Mexican-American, Euroamerican, and African-American seniors in San Antonio, Texas, for their attitudes about discussing death before it occurs and about organ donation, autopsy, and practice on cadavers. A rigorous content analysis identified themes. Majority attitudes of an ethnic group or sex subgroup here may characterize the group generally. Attitudes about discussing death differed only by ethnic group. Mexican Americans and Euroamericans favored such discussions, but African Americans did not. Attitudes about the postmortem procedures differed by ethnic group and sex. Overall, Mexican Americans viewed the procedures most favorably; Euroamericans, less so; and African Americans, least so. Men and women differed further within ethnic groups. Mexican-American men and women split evenly over organ donation, the men expressed no majority preference about autopsies and the women agreed to them, and the men refused and the women agreed to practice on their cadavers. Euroamerican men expressed no majority preferences, but Euroamerican women agreed to organ donation, had no majority preference about autopsies, and refused practice on their cadavers. African-American men expressed no majority preferences, and African-American women expressed none about organ donation or autopsies but refused practice on their cadavers. If confirmed, these ethnic- and sex-based attitudes can help health professionals tailor postmortem care to individual patients' preferences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)895-900
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005


  • Attitude to death
  • Autopsy
  • Cadaver
  • Cross-cultural comparison
  • Organ procurement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


Dive into the research topics of 'Exploring chronically ill seniors' attitudes about discussing death and postmortem medical procedures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this