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Outside the Lab Training and education, Profession, Forensics, Regulation and standards

Autopsy on the Slab?

Autopsy on the Slab?

Despite the intrinsic value of the ancient autopsy, it’s already extinct in some hospitals. Can it be saved?

Given my Greek heritage, I decided to trace the historic derivation of the word autopsy; it comes from the Greek words ‘autos’ (self) and ‘opsis’ (see). Though Rokitansky (1804–1878) is known as the father of the modern autopsy, crude versions of the practice date back to 3000 BC when people were quite skillfully performing human dissection (and mummification).

Fast forward five millennia or so, and the autopsy still holds a great deal of value. It remains the only definitive way to confirm cause of death and sometimes diagnose disease – and it provides an abundance of knowledge to trainee pathologists as well as a window into hereditary conditions for family members. Nevertheless, the rate of hospital autopsy is in a dire state of decline. Why? A well-cited catalyst is the fact that in 1971 the US Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare (JCAHO) agreed to eliminate minimum autopsy requirements from the regulations for hospital accreditation (1, 2).

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About the Author

Fedra Pavlou

After graduating with a pharmacology degree, I began my career in scientific publishing and communications. Now with more than 16 years of experience in this field, my career has seen me heading up editorial and writing teams at Datamonitor, Advanstar and KnowledgePoint360 group. My past experiences have taught me something very important – that you have to enjoy working with, and have respect for your colleagues. It’s this that drew me to Texere where I now work with old colleagues and new. Though we are a hugely diverse team, we share several things in common – a real desire to work hard to succeed, to be the best at what we do, never to settle for second best, and to have fun while we do it. I am now honored to serve as Editor of The Pathologist and Editorial Director of Texere Publishing.

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