JOURNAL ARTICLE
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The organisation and value of autopsies.

BACKGROUND: There has been a considerable reduction in the frequency of autopsies over the past few decades. We wanted to investigate whether doctors consider this a proper and natural development, or whether they consider that autopsies should be given a higher priority, and in such case, how.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Resources, organisation and opinions on autopsy practice were registered using a questionnaire sent to all pathology departments at Norwegian hospitals, and to all doctors in the clinical departments of Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway.

RESULTS: 392 clinicians replied (percentage of replies 50.3 %). Of these, 82 % considered autopsies to be a good means of quality assurance and quality control of the clinical work. 83 % considered that more autopsies should be performed on a national basis, and 65 % considered autopsies to be just as important today as previously, in spite of technological advances in medicine. However, 80 % of the clinicians attended autopsy demonstrations less than twice a year. The waiting time for autopsy reports was long - 66 days, on average. A majority of clinicians considered that reducing this time would lead to more autopsies being ordered.

DISCUSSION: Hospital doctors still consider autopsy to be a good means to assure the quality of clinical work. A reduction in the time needed to complete an autopsy report and better communication between clinicians and pathologists should be given priority.

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