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November 5, 1973

Autopsy Theory

Author Affiliations

University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston

JAMA. 1973;226(6):674. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03230060050025

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To the Editor.—  Dr. George Milles, (225:525, 1973) relates the declining requirements for autopsies by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals to lazy pathologists and bored clinicians. This is imprecise. The failure lies in the absence of proper philosophical and scientific incentives for the performance and understanding of the autopsy. Briefly, there are few conceptual arguments to be settled by the autopsy under its present mode of management. This is because there are few unifying concepts or challenging philosophical issues present in the current writings on the autopsy. Fewer of these concepts are known and appreciated by either clinicians or pathologists. There is no organismic pathology, so why study the organism?Pathologists here in Texas alone perform more than 17,000 autopsies a year. That's not likely to fulfill anyone's criteria for laziness. Any professional reluctance exhibited probably arises from our inability to intellectualize the autopsy properly and from our