Improve your hospital autopsy rate to 40-50 per cent, a tale of two towns

J Pathol. 1992 Apr;166(4):405-7. doi: 10.1002/path.1711660413.


In the light of medical audit, all pathology departments are scrutinizing their hospital autopsy rate. In most countries, the rate has fallen over the last few decades to between 10 and 20 per cent. However, it is still possible to achieve a much higher rate. We compare two neighbouring District General Hospitals (DGHs): Northampton, with the more usual autopsy rate of 11 per cent, and Kettering, with a higher rate of 40-50 per cent. These hospitals are comparable in almost every way except for the system used to request permission for an autopsy. These differences were evaluated and the following factors were found to be of importance in achieving a high rate: (1) centralization of death certificates within the mortuary and personal contact between the certifying doctor and the relatives within the bereavement room; (2) mortuary pathology technicians are designated as bereavement officers and act as coordinators between relatives, clinicians, and pathologists; and (3) regular clinico-pathological meetings and a positive attitude to autopsies by clinicians.

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy*
  • Death Certificates
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans