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September 6, 1965

The Autopsy as Research

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pathology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Bloomington.

JAMA. 1965;193(10):808-810. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090100054013

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Each autopsy is potentially a research procedure. Customarily we think of Research—with a capital R—as something performed by a group of scientists (frequently described as "dedicated") who engage in experimental interventions and usually alter some aspect of a group of animals, and who utilize the fantastic and photogenic gadgetry of modern biomedical science. In such surroundings new facts and new relationships have emerged.

In the definition of research new is the operational element: research develops new knowledge, new relationships, new considerations. Library study is research if new knowledge is gained; so is the usual animal experimentation under appropriate circumstances; so is the autopsy because the prosector, examining the organs and tissues of the deceased, is developing new knowledge about the case under study.

Considering the autopsy as essentially a research procedure, we must ask whether the present day autopsy utilizes appropriate and contemporary techniques. Admittedly there is a very great

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