Sounds grisly, I know. But autopsies provide much medical fuel for research and improved clinical practice. However, they are rarely performed anymore outside of the forensic realm. The pupose of the medical autopsy is different. It resolves differences between the true pathology of disease and its clinical presentation. Especially in the elderly population, when patients often require complex case management and doctors are overwhelmed by the plethora of debilitating conditions, an autopsy provides invaluable information from which to learn. Counterintuitively, an autopsy often provides peace of mind to the deceased’s loved ones, who may be suffering guilt and consequently learn of their powerlessness with the patient’s deterioration.
Autopsies reduce what are known as “Class I Errors.” These are the diagnoses which not only were missed, but had they been determined, would have resulted in different medical treatment which may have saved the patient’s life. Those Class I Errors decline in facilities where autopsies are frequently performed.