The approximately 250 autopsies that Medical Pathology performs annually are a critical component of the University of Pennsylvania Health System’s outcomes-based practice. Even as the discipline of autopsy pathology has declined nationwide, it remains essential at major academic centers like Penn for one fundamental reason. It continues to reveal clinically unsuspected findings that not only may have relevance to families of deceased patients in the moment, but will impact on the care of comparable patients in the future.
- Autopsies, with statistics provided at periodic reviews, are necessary for the Department to continue receiving re-accreditation for its training programs
- Autopsies for each non-pathology department (e.g., Surgery, Medicine, OB/GYN) are also necessary in order for those respective training programs to receive re-accreditation
- All hospital-inspecting agencies like the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) require proof that autopsy results are incorporated into ongoing hospital quality improvement programs
- Experimental therapies are evaluated for their success or failure by autopsies
- Certain diseases, such as Alzheimer's, can be reliably diagnosed only by autopsy
- Despite advances in care, unexpected findings are still consistently revealed by autopsy