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December 13, 1965

Some Addenda on the Role of Today's Autopsy

JAMA. 1965;194(11):1257. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090240091036

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To the Editor:—  It is heartwarming to one who believes wholly in the importance of the autopsy to learn that the eminent symposiasts of the Sept 6 Journal believe it is still important and indeed may be increasing in value.However, it seems to me that the occasional emphasis on the "lessening importance" of the procedure may well tend to increase the reluctance of many physicians to obtain them.The symposium says that some postmortems are of little value. In a recent survey in New York City, physicians, especially surgeons, maintained that postmortems are often unnecessary—for example, when the patient has widespread metastases. To cite an example of this fallacy, it has been shown that metastatic lung cancers are often diagnosed ante mortem as primary— only to find by autopsy that the disease was secondary from the pancreas, well-known for its silent morbid manifestations, or some other organ. Only through

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