JOURNAL ARTICLE

In Defense of Clinical Autopsy and Its Practice in Cuba

Alfredo D Espinosa-Brito, José Hurtado de Mendoza-Amat
MEDICC Review 2017, 19 (1): 37-41
28225544
There has been a notable decrease in the global practice of clinical autopsy; the rate has fallen to below 10%, even in high-income countries. This is attributed to several causes, including increased costs, overreliance on modern diagnostic techniques, cultural and religious factors, the emergence of new infectious diseases and negative attitudes on the part of doctors, even pathologists. Alternative methods to autopsy in postmortem studies have been developed based on imaging, endoscopy and biopsy (all quite expensive). These methods have been used in developed countries but never as effectively as the classic autopsy for identifying cause of death and potential medical errors. Although Cuba has also seen a decrease in its autopsy rates, they remain comparatively high. Between 1996 and 2015, there were 687,689 hospital deaths in Cuba and 381,193 autopsies, 55.4% of the total. These autopsies have positively affected medical care, training, research, innovation, management and society as a whole. Autopsies are an important tool in the National Health System's quest for safe, quality patient care based on the lessons learned from studying the deceased. KEYWORDS Autopsy, postmortem examination, postmortem diagnosis, quality of care, patient safety, medical error, Cuba.

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