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February 18, 1956


JAMA. 1956;160(7):587-588. doi:10.1001/jama.1956.02960420067026

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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

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