Patients Who Take Home Their Surgical Pathology Specimens: A Preliminary Study

Blake A. Gibson, Richard E. Sobonya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Patients regularly request to take possession of their human tissues after they have become surgical pathology specimens. To date, few formal research studies have examined the prevalence of this practice or the reasoning patients’ request that their specimens to be returned to them. This study interviews patients from 2015 to 2017 at one US academic medical center who requested their surgical pathology specimens. Of the 22 eligible patients, 8 patients agreed to be interviewed. Interviews lasted 10 to 30 minutes and included 5 questions. The questions were: (1) What motivated your decision to obtain your surgical pathology specimen, (2) What, if anything, did you do with your specimen, (3) What were positive aspects of your experience, (4) What were negative aspects of your experience, (5) What can the pathology department change to better support patients who request their surgical pathology specimens? Verbatim transcripts were generated and a mixed-methods analysis was performed. The type of specimens included products of conception, placenta and cord, costal cartilage and ribs, loop explant recorder, pacemaker, below knee amputation, and cervix, uterus, Fallopian tubes, and ovaries. The dominant themes included adversity, medical interest, souvenir, cultural beliefs, and curiosity. Subthemes included becoming whole in the afterlife, preservation, my body, restoration, honoring, and regret. In conclusion, pathologists can expand their role as patient advocates and advance patient-centered pathology by supporting patient’s individual needs, motivations, and goals, when they request their surgical pathology specimens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAcademic Pathology
StatePublished - 2019


  • amputation
  • communication
  • medical device
  • patient
  • patient-centered
  • products of conception
  • support
  • surgical pathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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