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September 6, 1965

How Many Autopsies?

JAMA. 1965;193(10):812-813. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090100058015

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Autopsies are important to medicine and society in several ways: (1) They are a revelation to the physician—sometimes of the expected, at other times of unanticipated disease. In either event they contribute to the continuing education of the physician. (2) They are essential in the education of medical students. (3) In certain cases appropriate postmortem examinations are necessary for the maintenance of law and justice in society. (4) To determine the major and contributory causes of death with sufficient accuracy, and to discover the trends of these diseases in society, autopsies must be done on large numbers of deaths or at least on epidemiologically valid samples. (5) Research in the broad sense forms a greater or less part of autopsies done for each of the foregoing purposes. And many new discoveries in disease still await the perceptive studies of autopsies, especially those done in conjunction with selected clinical observations. (6)

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