Epilepsy Talk

Autopsies – Where Did They Go? | August 22, 2018

50 years ago, it was pretty easy to find out the cause of a loved one’s death.

Not so anymore.

An investigation published by ProPublica shows that hospital autopsies have become a rarity…

“A half-century ago, an autopsy would have been routine. Autopsies, sometimes called the ultimate medical audit, were an integral part of American health care, performed on roughly half of all patients who died in hospitals.

Today, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show, they are conducted on about 5 percent of such patients.”

Even sudden unexpected deaths do not trigger postmortem reviews.

Hospitals are not required to offer or perform autopsies. Insurers don’t pay for them.

Some facilities and doctors shy away from them, fearing they may reveal malpractice. The downward trend is well-known — it’s been studied for years.

Now here’s some scary news: Did you know a coroner doesn’t need a medical degree to diagnose the cause of death?

An NPR News investigation in partnership with ProPublica and PBS Frontline explored the nation’s 2,300 coroner and medical examiner offices, and found a troubled system that buries its mistakes.

Diagnostic errors, which studies show are common, go undiscovered, allowing physicians to practice on other patients with a false sense of security.

Opportunities are lost to learn about the effectiveness of medical treatments and the progression of diseases. Inaccurate information winds up on death certificates, undermining the reliability of crucial health statistics.

In one of 10 cases, the error appeared severe enough to have led to the patient’s death. Plus, hospital autopsies are even rarer when patients older than 60 die in hospitals.

In other words, autopsies are a dysfunctional system in which there are few standards, little oversight and the mistakes are literally buried.

In state after state, reporters found autopsies — our final physical exam — conducted by doctors who lacked certification and training.

An increasing number of the 2.5 million Americans who die each year go to the grave without being examined at all.

A ProPublica report details “hospitals’ powerful financial incentives to avoid autopsies” and explains that without information from these procedures, diagnostic errors are often missed.

This gap not only leads to lost opportunities for improved medical treatment, but skews health care statistics.

The report continues: “An autopsy costs about $1,275, according to a survey of hospitals in eight states. But Medicare and private insurers don’t pay for them directly, typically limiting reimbursement to procedures used to diagnose and treat the living.”

“Medicare bundles payments for autopsies into overall payments to hospitals for quality assurance, increasing the incentive to skip them,” said Dr. John Sinard, director of autopsy service for the Yale University School of Medicine.

“The hospital is going to get the money whether they do the autopsy or not, so the autopsy just becomes an expense,” Sinard said.

But finally here’s the “good” news: while most hospitals have drastically reduced the number of autopsies they perform, if you persist in getting one, sometimes you can get it free of charge.

Now, that’s really sick!









  1. Let’s just say the BIG PHARMA INDUSTRY has silenced the coroners & the health insurance corporations, to make it safer for doctors to practice on the people, who are nothing but a case number, & object. never thinking of any person being a real human, It’s called population control, so why not go to CHINA & other saturated countries of people, & not focus on all states here EAST of the Mississippi river. Do people ever notice too where all sodas, alcohol & other foods & drinks are being sold more to as these TOXIC & CONTAMINATED foods & drinks do trigger & cause seizures & other brain conditions are sold ? Do a survey with that, & see where MOST people with Epilepsy live or HAVE LIVED when diagnosed with it. Check too the diet/s they’ve had all their life. Also VACCINES now as they were 50+ years ago, are a must have too for kids under 5 years old & teens now before graduating from high school. Sure, they are no root causes for some deaths of kids, dying from a seizure or whatever because of VACCINES, So Bill Gates, BIG PHARMA, Doctors & Monsanto WILL be accountable for many deaths that there are NO NUMBERS high enough to count as to WHY deaths has & have happened in the last 70 years. Vengence is mine says the Lord. I will repay. Hell can not be hot enough for those people at BIG PHARMA, MONSANTO & alike who $UPPORT THEM.


    Comment by CD — August 22, 2018 @ 4:17 PM

    • I agree whole heartedly: “Let’s just say the BIG PHARMA INDUSTRY has silenced the coroners & the health insurance corporations, to make it safer for doctors to practice on the people, who are nothing but a case number, & object. never thinking of any person being a real human.” 😦


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 22, 2018 @ 4:22 PM

  2. I am no great fan of the pharmaceutical industry but to say that they have “… silenced the coroners …to make it safer for doctors to practice on the people ….” without offering any proof to support such a derogatory allegation should not be acceptable. And as for the libellous accusation against Bill Gates…well! This web site was designed to help people not to confuse them by the propagation of conspiracy theories.

    In addition, as far as I know coroners do not need to be medically qualified since they do not practice medicine or perform autopsies. Their job is to establish the cause of death by considering the work of law enforcement and others, the results of autopsies performed by medical examiners, and tests performed by laboratory workers and possibly pathologists. Medical examiners, in my admitedly limited experience, do have to be medically qualified.


    Comment by Michael H — August 22, 2018 @ 11:12 PM

    • Michael, point well taken.

      But Bill Gates? I don’t recall any mention of him, except by a another member.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 23, 2018 @ 9:05 AM

      • Phylis, my comments were entirely in response to the post by CD and not in response to your posting. I thought your originating post was very informative and interesting.

        However, CD, among other questionable allegations suggested that Bill Gates, among other parties “… will be responsible for many deaths…” Hopefully people realize that opinions expressed do not represent the views of the Foundation but solely the view of the contributors.


        Comment by Michael H — August 23, 2018 @ 12:26 PM

      • Understandably so. And I sure am not the Foundation!

        I’m just little ole me, doing a labor of love. With much research. 🙂


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 23, 2018 @ 1:56 PM

  3. When I was young I worked in a hospital (a very well known one too) where it was discovered that the person who performed the autopsies was selling body parts of the deceased. He was caught, and charged with the crime. Presumably the hospital was more vigilant after that. Then again, who knows?


    Comment by Martha — August 25, 2018 @ 2:29 PM

  4. Selling body parts? Ghoulish and off topic but if you are really interested see:


    There was also a case in CT some 20 years ago when the office of the chief Medical Examoner was found to be removing corneas from bodies without approval from the next of kin.

    However I must admit than personally I am more concerned about what Dilantin (phenytoin) is doing to my aged but still living body than I am about what happens to my eventual corpse!


    Sent from my iPad


    Comment by Michael H — August 25, 2018 @ 5:37 PM

  5. I always let them use samples for research. I am a complex medical case alive, sure they could probably even learn something from what happened to me dead. It’s an eerie thought, but I have had so many medical issues; besides seizures, so it would be interesting.


    Comment by trekkie80sgirl — August 27, 2018 @ 11:21 PM

    • Let’s not think of you as dead at this point.

      But I am sorry for all your medical issues and perhaps someone could profit from your experiences.

      A dim excuse, but…


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 28, 2018 @ 9:43 AM

  6. “2.5 million Americans who die each year”
    The population of this country is about 330,000,000. How could only that few of them die each year?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Frank Rizzo — November 1, 2021 @ 5:56 PM

  7. Frank, . The figure,of 2.5 million is way out of date. Government data is 2.86 million for 2019 and about 3.4 million for 2020. Our death rate is very high among the advanced nations even allowing for the “covid effect.” More to the point the % requiring autopsies is still very low

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Michael H — November 2, 2021 @ 4:07 PM

  8. The following related article helps to explain the background and supports the need for more autopsies in cases where testing alone is insufficient.


    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Michael H — November 6, 2021 @ 12:37 PM

  9. Fabulous article Michael. Thank you. I hope others read it. The article explains a lot.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 6, 2021 @ 12:57 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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