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October 27, 1989

AIDS, Autopsies, and Abandonment

JAMA. 1989;262(16):2232. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430160049023

To the Editor.—  I have several comments about the article by Drs Ratzan and Schneiderman1 entitled "AIDS, Autopsies, and Abandonment."They state that pathologists have an obligation to perform necropsies on patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome "analogous to the obligation of endoscopists and surgeons to perform indicated and necessary operations on AIDS patients." The logic behind this notion escapes me. It is evident to me that performing an autopsy does not lessen the suffering of the deceased patient. An individual autopsy may contribute an increment of knowledge about disease that may help future patients. In some cases, the performance of an autopsy may ease the suffering of the deceased patient's family, but sometimes the reverse is true. By no stretch of the imagination do these benefits carry the same weight as do procedures performed to help a sick patient.The authors state that physicians "have knowingly made a risky