The impact of declining clinical autopsy: need for revised healthcare policy

Am J Med Sci. 2009 Jan;337(1):41-6. doi: 10.1097/MAJ.0b013e318184ce2b.


In Western countries, autopsy rates for patients deceased in hospitals have dropped to record lows, while the average frequency of major errors in clinical diagnoses has more than doubled during the same time period. Meanwhile, the Institute of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have called attention to the high frequency of errors affecting patient safety, bringing the issue of public safety to the forefront of public health concerns. Although autopsies represent a vital tool for the acquisition of new medical knowledge and for medical quality assurance, health care professionals, insurers, and politicians apparently have not chosen the right approach to solve the problem of declining autopsy rates. The present article reviews the current status of clinical autopsies and addresses causes and consequences of their neglect and appeal the urgent need to revise the policy for clinical autopsy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Autopsy* / economics
  • Autopsy* / psychology
  • Autopsy* / standards
  • Autopsy* / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health
  • Morals
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Students, Medical