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Book and Media Reviews
November 25, 2009

Handbook of Autopsy Practice

JAMA. 2009;302(20):2260-2261. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1733

The accomplished autopsy pathologist is a veritable renaissance professional—a skilled physician, a proficient scientist, a competent technician, a talented histopathologist, an adept educator, an ensurer of quality and, last but not least, a performance artist. It is no wonder then that the consummate autopsy pathologist is one of a vanishing breed.

The autopsy procedure has fallen on bleak times. In general, hospitals do not actively promote it, clinicians do not diligently chase it, patients (and their survivors) do not entirely comprehend it, and pathologists do not vigorously pursue it. It is no wonder that autopsy rates, at least in the hospital setting, have dwindled precipitously. There is little likelihood of a phoenix-like reemergence of autopsies unless draconian regulatory edicts impose a dramatic turnaround.