Autopsy: A Tool for Diagnosis and for Education. Ann Intern Med. 1998;129:844. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-129-10-199811150-00031
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1998;129(10):844.
“Autopsy remains the touchstone of diagnosis,” according to Henry Schneiderman, MD, of the University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington (Schneiderman H, Gruhn J. J Postgrad Med. 1985; 77:153-6). But autopsy rates have declined precipitously in recent decades-from a peak of 41% in 1964 to less than 5% today (Hasson J, Schneiderman H. Arch Pathol Lab Med. 1995; 119:289-91). Schneiderman and colleague Jack Hasson, MD, label this situation a “disaster” because autopsy is an invaluable and irreplaceable tool not only for clinical medicine and epidemiology but also for medical education.
“Autopsies enable all physicians, both trainees and those who are more senior, to check the accuracy of their medical findings and the effects of their therapies,” Schneiderman noted. “There is no test as powerful as this, even in the age of MRI and CT. There is a high rate of discovery of unexpected diagnosis at autopsy, particularly by trainees. It helps them to understand that our profession is not only not omnipotent, but not omniscient,” he said. “It is also a potent reminder that patients are not immortal, so that one does not regard the decline and death of a patient as inevitably a medical failing, but as the nature of our species.”
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