I am pleased to have been invited to be on the Advisory Board of a research project run by Sheffield University, looking into the differences between the traditional post-mortem and a more modern, non-invasive MRI scan post-mortem in cases involving infant deaths.
The ‘End Of or Start Of Life - Visual Technology and The Transformation of Traditional Post-Mortem’ project is being funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
Today, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is beginning to be used more widely in certain areas of pathology such as prenatal and neonatal deaths. Many argue that MRI has the potential to transform traditional post-mortem practices through the development of less invasive autopsies, enabling necessary examinations to be done using images, thereby avoiding the need for dissection.
The aim of the project is to understand how parents and families who have experienced the use of MRI scanning as a post-mortem service following the death of their baby, feel about the post-mortem process.
The project will gather information from families who have had experience of both traditional and MRI post-mortems to help better understand how the use of MRI technology in this context may assist bereaved families, particularly parents of babies who died as a result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), more commonly known as cot death.
Working alongside the Coroner and representatives from infant death charities Sands and The Lullaby Trust, the Board will sensitively collect data from bereaved parents to ascertain how much of a difference non-invasive MRI scanning would make to the post-mortem process, if it was more widely available.
Research will be conducted by interviewing various professionals including pathologists and radiologists working on fetal and neonatal pathology. A number of key sites where post-mortem imaging or actions involving MRI images take place will be observed, and a range of interviews and focus groups conducted involving bereaved parents, and families who either have or have not direct experience of MRI scanning as part of a post-mortem process.
This research is tremendously important as it will benefit bereaved parents by providing them with information about any potential choices they may have over fetal and infant autopsy. It will also, crucially, help raise awareness around prenatal and neonatal loss and contribute to the ongoing professional development of pathologists and other related professionals by informing professional guidelines and educational materials on the use of MRI imaging in autopsy.
Rachel Brown is a clinical negligence solicitor at Slater and Gordon in Sheffield.
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