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September 2, 1983

Turning Autopsy Liabilities Into Assets

Author Affiliations

Evanston (III) Hospital

JAMA. 1983;250(9):1165. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340090025013

To the Editor.—  The declining interest in autopsies is peculiarly out of step with the public's interest in knowing more about health and fighting disease. One of the reasons for the decline may be that the incentives are all wrong. For the pathologist, there is no glamour in doing autopsies nor does he get paid for doing them. He is expected to do them for the general good, as a public service, and to document that scholarship is his real motivation. For the clinician, the autopsy may produce embarrassment and perhaps a legal liability, assuming no apathy and disinterest. The gain in insight may not be enough to offset the negative incentive. For the hospital, the autopsy represents an expense it cannot recover, increasingly a luxury as hospital finances are becoming more difficult. In other words, the key players have little serious motivation to pursue the autopsy with vigor. This