Authors: Audrey V. Banyini, David Rees, Leah Gilbert

Source: Global Health Action 2013, 6:19518


Key words: mineworker autopsy; posthumous compensation; South Africa; consent for autopsy

Context: In the South African mining sector, cardiorespiratory-specific autopsies are conducted under the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (ODMWA) on deceased mineworkers to determine eligibility for compensation. However, low levels of autopsy utilisation undermine the value of the service.

Objective: To explore enablers and barriers to consent that impact on ODMWA autopsy utilisation for posthumous monetary compensation.

Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with mineworkers, widows and relatives of deceased mineworkers as well as traditional healers and mine occupational health practitioners.

Results: A range of socio-cultural barriers to consent for an autopsy was identified. These barriers were largely related to gendered power relations, traditional and religious beliefs, and communication and trust. Understanding these barriers presents opportunities to intervene so as to increase autopsy utilisation.

Conclusions: Effective interventions could include engagement with healthy mine-workers and their families and re-evaluating the permanent removal of organs. The study adds to our understanding of utilisation of the autopsy services.

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