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Attitudes Toward Autopsy and Organ Donation in Sweden and the United States

George D. Lundberg, MD
JAMA. 1994;271(4):317. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510280079038.
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The autopsy in the United States has come upon hard times.1 From a peak rate of nearly 60% of hospital deaths in the 1950s, we have dropped to a low of 12% in the 1990s and to under 5% in nonteaching community hospitals.2

Organ transplantation is highly successful. Yet despite over 2 million deaths annually, more than 30 000 Americans are on waiting lists for organs.3

See also p 284.

What is the problem? Is it attitudes of the public? attitudes of physicians? resistance by pathologists? lack of money? communication difficulties? Or is it simply systematic incompetence?

In this week's JAMA, Sanner of Uppsala4 documents a study of attitudes among Swedes showing a more than 80% acceptance rate of autopsy for themselves or for a close relative; a more than 60% willingness to donate their own organs for transplantation and nearly 40% to donate those of


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