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December 7, 1970

The Life and Death of Medical Records

JAMA. 1970;214(10):1890. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03180100080028

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To the Editor.—  One of the most frustrating experiences which a geneticist or epidemiologist encounters is the blind alley he often reaches in his search for a medical record for verification of diagnosis and pathology. Suddenly he receives a terse statement, "we regret to inform you that all records at this institution have been destroyed prior to the year such and such." This has been a sad experience for us through the years as we attempt to delineate the role of inheritance for certain specific malignant neoplasms. According to our protocol, which we are prepared to defend almost with our lives, we believe that the only way meaningful information can be retrieved for a clear understanding of epidemiologic and genetic factors in cancer is through an accurate pathological verification of the cancer of any specific anatomic site. Obviously this necessitates a detailed description of the abnormalities in the medical chart.