The autopsy and medical fallibility: a historical perspective

Conn Med. 2001 May;65(5):283-9.


The three major factors causing the decline of nationwide autopsy rates to 0% to 5% are presented in historical perspective. One is the evolution of a perception by the public and doctors that infallible medical practice is a realistic goal in spite of the inevitability of unavoidable errors. Another is the structure of our tort-claim/liability insurance system that results in holding physicians culpable and financially responsible for injuries to patients by unavoidable errors. The third factor is the reluctant neglect of the autopsy by pathologists whose higher priorities are patient-care services. Inadequate funding for services and facilities to offset the lack of any income production has heightened neglect of the service. Remedies are presented for consideration.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • United States