NPR radio reports:
When a loved one dies unexpectedly in the hospital, getting answers to how and why isn't as easy as it was 50 years ago.Maybe social service screwups should be followed by live autopsies, where some sort of objective social science pathologist writes a report on what happened.
Back then, doctors would often order a clinical autopsy. But an investigation published today 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."
The findings are part of Post Mortem, a reporting partnership by NPR News Investigations, ProPublica and PBS Frontline, about deep flaws in the U.S. death investigation system.
Over the past year, the series has uncovered the lack of skilled forensic pathologists who can perform autopsies, wrongful convictions among child death cases, and disputes among the medical and legal communities.
Today's 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.
Of course medical schools train pathologists to do autopsies, and the profession is not completely corrupt. I don't know to find someone with the competence to evaluate CPS screwups. It is just an idea. Could it work?