Objective: To determine the proper role of human clinical investigation, including autopsy, in public health research policy.
Data sources: Medical reports and reviews, and literature concerning the philosophy of medicine.
Conclusions: Autopsy has always been a cornerstone of medical research. Although many pathologists appreciate the research value of autopsies, many other physicians do not. Declining federal support for human clinical research in general, and autopsy in particular, party reflects the popular view that laboratory experimentation-especially that performed on nonhuman animals-can reliably model human conditions. Human clinical research is often difficult, expensive, and time-consuming, but there seems to be no adequate substitute for studies of naturally occurring human conditions. Such studies address many critical medical questions. Autopsy remains an invaluable complement to evolving molecular biology techniques.