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Are a Large Number of Wrongful Deaths Never Being Acknowledged? Part II

In our last blog post, we wrote about how a recent report revealed that autopsies in hospitals have virtually disappeared. And it is believed that many autopsies are not being performed because the healthcare facilities and their physicians are concerned that open up the hospital to medical malpractice.

The reality is that autopsies yield valuable data. They can show conclusively how a patient died and the progression of disease. Family members may learn of genetic health risks and change behaviors accordingly.

Autopsies also help hospitals track local infections. In the long term, autopsies are an essential tool for measuring the progress of medical science.

And autopsies not only benefit medical science and family health, but they also serve as an important patient protection against medical errors. Autopsies can provide an accurate cause of death listed in a patient's death certificate. And autopsies also serve as a check against diagnostic errors by medical professionals who prescribe dangerous treatments for the misdiagnosed problems. Experts point to the growing reliance on medical diagnostic technologies and doctors' overconfidence in their effectiveness.

Diagnostic errors are common. One study showed errors in up to 25 percent of cases, and errors contributing to death in 10 percent of cases. Autopsies are the key to discovering these errors. For example, using autopsy data, concerned medical professional groups recently showed that stents used to protect against blood clots were harmful and potentially fatal to patients.

This kind of information is critical to make sure that such medical mistakes are not repeated in the future. But, unfortunately, many new hospitals are being built without any autopsy facilities at all. So it appears that - despite the advice of numerous experts, changes are not on the horizon.

Source: ProPublica.org, "Without Autopsies, Hospitals Bury Their Mistakes."

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