The declining autopsy rate and clinicians' attitudes

M B Loughrey, W G McCluggage, P G Toner
Ulster Medical Journal 2000, 69 (2): 83-9
The autopsy rate has been declining worldwide for decades. This study determined the overall and differential autopsy rates for the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast for the years 1997-1999 inclusive. Trends were examined by comparison with previously collected data for the years 1990, 1991 and 1993. Reasons for the decline in autopsy rates as perceived by hospital clinicians were assessed by means of a questionnaire. Over the last decade, there has been a steady decline in the overall autopsy rate from 30.4% in 1990 to 18.4% in 1999. This is due to a decrease in the hospital autopsy rate from 21.6% in 1990 to 7.9% in 1999. The coroner's autopsy rate has remained comparatively unchanged at around 11%. The decline in the overall and hospital autopsy rates involves all of the principal bedholding directorates, but is most dramatic in medicine, surgery and intensive care, where hospital autopsy rates are currently 7% or less. The main reasons for this decline as perceived by clinicians are difficulty in obtaining consent from relatives and advances in modern diagnostic techniques. The findings of this enquiry are in keeping with trends elsewhere, despite repeated studies which clearly demonstrate the continuing value of the autopsy in clinical practice. Recent publicity concerning the retention of organs can only have an adverse affect. Pathologists and clinicians who value the autopsy must become actively engaged in both public and medical education. Renewed emphasis must be placed on the importance of the autopsy in teaching, training and clinically relevant research, and as a means of medical audit.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Trending Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"

We want to hear from doctors like you!

Take a second to answer a survey question.