The autopsy. Simple thoughts about the public needs and how to address them

Am J Clin Pathol. 1996 Oct;106(4 Suppl 1):S11-4.


Dialogue regarding the autopsy has been sustained largely by medical students and professionals, and by families of deceased patients. Exclusion of the general public may represent a significant reason for the inexorable decline of autopsy rates and politicoeconomic support. Sensitivity to public concerns regarding the autopsy process carries far-reaching moral and educational significance. A better understanding of the social value of the autopsy will help to ensure its survival in a climate of ever-tightening health-care budgets. Emphasis must be placed on integrating the autopsy process, from the initial request, performance and post-autopsy follow-up with families, to the diagnostic, pathobiologic and epidemiologic interpretation of the results obtained. Opportunities for investigating cause of death currently lie primarily in animal models or in forensic postmortem material where the cause of death is frequently known. Public awareness of the autopsy's special role in the setting of natural and unexplained death is essential if the autopsy is to be retained as a key tool in understanding human disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy* / economics
  • Cause of Death
  • Family
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans