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In Defense of the Autopsy

Robert R. Wilson, MD, FC Path
JAMA. 1966;196(11):1011-1012. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03100240145036.
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The "Symposium on the Autopsy"1-6 prompted the presentation of the results of a study done in London, and reported verbally to the Royal Society of Medicine7 but never actually printed. The writer was at that time concerned because the autopsy was in some influential quarters "out of fashion," as Bohrod4 puts it. Indeed, one notable physician had said that he never learned anything at postmortem examination, except what the patient did not die of, and he really did not care whether a postmortem examination were done or not. From the autopsy's former position of preeminence, the pendulum had swung too far the other way.

An attempt was therefore made to assess the usefulness of autopsies by doing a survery of a year's postmortem examinations and comparing the clinical diagnosis with the postmortem diagnosis. This implies no disrespect to clinical colleagues. Medicine is one of the most difficult disciplines,


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