The uses and value of autopsy in medical education as seen by pathology educators

Acad Med. 1991 Feb;66(2):97-100. doi: 10.1097/00001888-199102000-00011.


A national meeting of pathology educators in 1989 provided the impetus for an exploration of new uses of autopsy in medical education. A month before the conference, the authors sent a questionnaire about the uses and value of autopsy in medical education to 120 persons registered to attend the conference. They used the 98 responses, representing 69 U.S. and Canadian medical schools, as the basis of a workshop on the place of autopsy in future medical education. The present article is a report of the authors' findings from the questionnaire and workshop. They found that the uses of autopsy go far beyond the traditional uses in teaching clinical pathophysiology, clinico-pathologic correlations, clinical anatomy, gross and microscopic anatomy of disease, and visual skills. Emphasis was placed on the potential role of autopsy in education regarding legal/judicial proceedings, vital statistics, epidemiologic investigations, and public health, and in the understanding of such complex matters as medical fallibility, medical uncertainty, and grief. These purposes were seen as congruent with current societal concerns about the need to reverse the trend toward dehumanization of medicine and physicians. The inability to realize these aims in the face of a precipitous drop in the autopsy rate is discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy*
  • Education, Medical*
  • Faculty, Medical*
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Pathology / education*
  • United States