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September 6, 1965

The Autopsy

JAMA. 1965;193(10):805-806. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090100051011

Historically, the autopsy provided the means for understanding human illness. Initially it was limited to morphologic descriptions of changes in tissues and organs, and only later did it correlate these changes with pathogenesis. The modern autopsy is performed to (a) correlate the clinical aspects of disease for diagnostic and therapeutic evaluations; (b) determine the cause of death; (c) evaluate incompletely known disorders or discover new disease; (d) serve an educational function through demonstration of tissue alterations (gross, microscopic, and biochemical) as they relate to pathogenesis and to the therapeutically altered or natural courses of disease; and (e) collect data for statistical analysis of disease incidence. The extent to which these purposes are realized depends on the attitude of those concerned with the conduct of necropsy studies and the facilities available for the investigation. Death and the need to explore its circumstances has no identity with the type of hospital—community or

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