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Editorial |

Low-Tech Autopsies in the Era of High-Tech Medicine Continued Value for Quality Assurance and Patient Safety

George D. Lundberg, MD
JAMA. 1998;280(14):1273-1274. doi:10.1001/jama.280.14.1273.
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It's back. The autopsy question, that is. It will not go away quietly. In 1983, in a theme issue on autopsy, JAMA announced that it was "declaring war on the nonautopsy."1 We have, in truth, based on outcomes, lost most of the battles since then. But we have not lost the war. Today marks a new offensive.

Autopsies have traditionally been performed to:

  1. establish the cause of death,

  2. assist in determining the manner of death (ie, homicide, suicide, etc),

  3. compare the premortem and postmortem findings,

  4. produce accurate vital statistics,

  5. monitor the public health,

  6. assess the quality of medical practice,

  7. instruct medical students and physicians,

  8. identify new and changing diseases,

  9. evaluate the effectiveness of therapies such as drugs, surgical techniques, and prostheses,

  10. reassure family members, and

  11. protect against false liability claims and settle valid claims quickly and fairly.26

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