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January 5, 1976

Postmortem Examination

JAMA. 1976;235(1):21. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260270011005

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To the Editor.—  Burrows concludes that "routine" autopsy is not cost-effective because the yield in terms of uncovering unsuspected disease processes and inaccurate diagnoses is relatively small in unselected cases. Without questioning the author's interpretation of the data that show clinically unsuspected or misinterpreted diseases in one of ten cases, pathologist Burrows seems to forget that a clinical diagnosis rarely constitutes more than an educated guess. "Routine" autopsy gives the clinician a chance to correlate his bedside and lab findings with in vivo reality. Far from a waste of time or pointless academic exercise, postmortem examination of "routine" cases provides a vital continuing check on clinical acumen and is highly valued as such by many practitioners at all levels of training and experience. "Routine" autopsies are not "folly"; they are a valuable part of continuing education.