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To the Editor:—
In The Journal for Nov. 26, 1955, on page 1327, Dr. Joseph W. Spelman in commenting on Dr. Turkel's article "Evaluating a Medicolegal Office" published in The Journal, Aug. 27, 1955, states, in part: "There are many instances where a complete autopsy would yield little evidence of medicolegal importance that could not be determined from a careful examination of witnesses, the scene of death, and external examination of the body." While true in one sense of the word, this is a most dangerous doctrine. Before World War II, I was, for eight years, one of the autopsy surgeons to the coroner, Los Angeles County, California. Only in rare instances was a body signed out without autopsy. About 2% of these autopsies showed no adequate pathological cause of death, and toxicologic examination was negative. One might consider these autopsies to be futile, except for the fact that they
Schaefer JH. NEED FOR AUTOPSIES. JAMA. 1956;160(7):587–588. doi:10.1001/jama.1956.02960420067026
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