Study objective: To assess the attitudes of house officers in internal medicine and pathology about the value and use of the autopsy.
Design: Self-administered multiple-choice questionnaire.
Setting: Two New York City urban teaching hospitals.
Subjects: 112 internal medicine and 37 pathology house officers who were on site during the survey period.
Main results: Most internal medicine house officers (86%) felt that the autopsy rate was too low and needed to be increased. The most common reason the residents cited for the low rate was the reluctance of families to grant permission. A majority of medicine housestaff (78%) felt they needed more instruction on how to ask for an autopsy, and 34% had never received feedback from the pathology department on autopsy results. Most pathology residents (94%) felt the autopsy rate was too low; the most common reasons they cited for the low rate were reluctance of clinicians to request permission and clinicians' fears of being sued for malpractice.
Conclusions: House officers in internal medicine and pathology agreed that autopsies should be performed more frequently, and identified problems in obtaining autopsies that should be addressed by educational, organizational, and regulatory strategies.