The Role of the General Practitioner in the Dutch System of Post-Mortem Investigations

Cécile Woudenberg - van den Broek, Henriette Treurniet, Koos van der Velden, Wilma Duijst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: General Practitioners (GPs) have an important role in the Dutch system of external post-mortem examination (E-PM). They perform at least 50% of the E-PMs. This research aims to study the competence of the GPs in the Netherlands in performing E-PMs. To achieve this, a survey was performed amongst GPs. The study analysed if GPs felt competent to perform E-PMs, if they had knowledge of and acted according to the Dutch Burial Act and if they were consistent in their acts and thoughts.
Methods: An online survey conducted amongst GPs resulted in 225 datasets, after excluding 36 surveys for various reasons.
Results: There was no significant difference in the feeling of competence between GPs (79.47%) and GP registrars (86.49%). Of all the respondents 40.89% were consistent in their acts and thoughts on the matter of E-PMs and 33.78% of respondents scored a 100% on legal knowledge? Of all the respondents that felt competent 47.28% showed inconsistency in acts and thoughts as well as lack of legal knowledge.
Conclusion: Although every physician in the Netherlands is qualified to perform E-PMs, this research shows this does not automatically imply they are competent to do so. The inconsistency in acts and thoughts and/or the lack of legal knowledge in the matter of E-PMs undermines the current Dutch system of death investigations.
Keywords: Death • Forensic medicine • External post-mortem examination • General practitioners • Competence • Consistency • Legal knowledge
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of General Practice
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2022


  • death
  • forensic medicine
  • external post-mortem examination
  • general practitioners
  • competence
  • consistency
  • legal knowledge


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