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August 17, 1970

Autopsies in the United States— Frequency by States

Author Affiliations

Alaska Native Medical Center Box 7-741 Anchorage 99501

JAMA. 1970;213(7):1195. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03170330075021

To the Editor:—  Although the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals requires an autopsy rate of 20% on deaths occurring within each hospital for accreditation, I have been unable to locate any figures regarding the percentage of autopsies on all deaths in the United States. The National Center for Health Statistics does not collect this material. Willis1 stated in 1960 that in English-speaking countries less than 5% of deaths were followed by autopsy.A form letter was sent to the registrar of vital statistics (or similar official) of each state, requesting the number of deaths and autopsies within his state for the calendar years, 1967 and 1968. The information gleaned from the replies is presented in tabular form (Table).Twenty-five states had data for either one or both years. Two more states, Florida and South Carolina, will first have the material available for 1970 and 1969, respectively. Three states,