Pathology: Lessons from the Dead

"H. L. Mencken defined a judge as a law student who grades his own papers," writes Manhattan Internist John Prutting in the New York State Journal of Medicine. "A similar view might be taken of the physician who fails to submit his diagnostic skills to that impartial grader, the autopsy." With that, Dr. Prutting put in a plea for more autopsies, which would enable more doctors to compare more diagnoses with actual causes of death.

Only about 30% of U.S. deaths are followed by autopsies, and when postmortem findings are compared with ante-mortem diagnoses, glaring discrepancies often occur. Less than...

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