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Autopsies: when and why and how


Wikipedia provides a useful overview of Autopsy. For example: The four main types of autopsies:

Medico-Legal Autopsy or Forensic or coroner's autopsies seek to find the cause and manner of death and to identify the decedent. They are generally performed, as prescribed by applicable law, in cases of violent, suspicious or sudden deaths, deaths without medical assistance or during surgical procedures.

Clinical or Pathological autopsies are performed to diagnose a particular disease or for research purposes. They aim to determine, clarify, or confirm medical diagnoses that remained unknown or unclear prior to the patient's death.

Anatomical or academic autopsies are performed by students of anatomy for study purpose only. Virtual or medical imaging autopsies are performed utilizing imaging technology only, primarily magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT).
When and why are autopsies done? (WebMD) Autopsies don't always have to be done. If you do need one, it's usually both a medical and a legal process. Every local government has an official who records deaths. She's called either a coroner or a medical examiner. All but a handful of states require medical examiners to be doctors. Coroners may be doctors as well, but don't have to be.
What Happens in an Autopsy? Tara Long, The Seeker, 8-26-14) We've all seen autopsies performed on television shows. Are these depictions accurate? Tara explains everything that happens during an autopsy.
How Autopsies Work (Robert Valdes & Patrick J. Kiger, How Stuff Works)
Without Autopsies, Hospitals Bury Their Mistakes (Marshall Allen, Pro Publica, 12-15-11) Hospital autopsies have become a rarity. As a result, experts say, diagnostic errors are missed, opportunities to improve medical treatment are lost, and health-care statistics are skewed.
A Day in the Life of an Embalmer (YouTube, Tobin Brothers Funerals, 10-minute video)
Verbal autopsies used in push to better track global deaths (Christina Larson and Mike Stobbe, AP in WaPo, 10-6-19) A "verbal autopsy" is an interview in which a trained health worker asks a close relative or caretaker about a recently deceased person. Increasingly, health officials are using these tools and their computer algorithms to learn more about the global course of human disease. About 50 countries have attempted verbal autopsy projects, and the list is growing. Bloomberg Philanthropies — a major funder of international health data initiatives — is funding verbal autopsies as well as cancer registries and other programs intended to help developing countries gather accurate data about the health of their citizens. An estimated 60 million people in the world will die this year, and half will have no death certificates or other records describing what killed them. Most will be in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in Africa and parts of Asia. That means the common understanding of overall disease and mortality trends in the developing world often relies upon broad estimates and guesswork. Knowing what's killing people can be tricky. U.S. doctors are required to sign death certificates, but recent studies suggest some doctors put down certain conditions as a default, which is one reason some experts believe heart disease has been over-reported as a cause of death in the U.S.
Verbal autopsy methods questioned (Declan Butler, Nature, 2010) Controversy flares over malaria mortality levels in India.
Use of verbal autopsy to determine mortality patterns in an urban slum in Kolkata, India (Suman Kanungo et al, WHO, 2010)
Searching cause of death through different autopsy methods: A new initiative (Abhishek Das and Ranadip Chowdhury, NCBI: Family Med Prim Care. 2017;6(2):191–195. doi:10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_194_16) Extensive bibliography leads to unexpected articles.
Bill And Melinda Gates: Autopsies Could Prevent Epidemics, Save Countless Lives (Dominique Mosbergen, HuffPost, 5-15-15) Bill and Melinda Gates believe that performing "minimal autopsies" on dead children could save countless lives. Last week, the Gates Foundation announced that it was investing $75 million in a series of "disease surveillance sites" that will conduct post-mortem examinations on children in order to figure out "how, where and why children are getting sick and dying." Dubbed the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance Network, or CHAMPS, the program will initially be launched in six locations in Africa and South Asia. Knowing what children are dying from could help pinpoint a new disease or nip an emerging epidemic in the bud. Gates said he believes that such a system could have proved exceedingly useful in the case of the recent Ebola epidemic, for instance. See also Bill Gates's Quest to Determine Why Children Are Dying (Olga Khazan, The Atlantic, 5-6-15) The Gates Foundation's 'Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance Network, or CHAMPS, will be spread initially throughout six locations in Africa and South Asia. It will rely on field workers to take biopsies of children who have perished and on beefed-up laboratories that will perform medical testing... a "global warning and response system" that's geared toward outbreaks like Ebola.'
Breakthrough in how autopsy practice is conducted worldwide (Science Daily, 5-24-17) A ground-breaking study by Guy Rutty and Bruno Morgan from the University of Leiceste (pathologists and radiologists) could represent a breakthrough in how autopsy practice is conducted in the United Kingdom and around the world. A previous study of PMCT published in the Lancet in 2012 showed promise for using medical imaging to investigate the cause of natural death, but with a major weakness: the inability to diagnose coronary artery disease, the most common cause of natural death. Professor Morgan explained: "In clinical CT scanning, a contrast agent is injected into a vein and circulation delivers it around the body. This allows the CT scan to show the state of blood vessels anywhere in the body. However, the lack of circulation in cadavers means these techniques cannot be used." This has been overcome by developing a novel minimally invasive coronary artery angiography technique.

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