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Quarter of autopsies 'unacceptable'

22nd October 2006

20102006_morgue1.jpgThe first ever audit of autopsies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has revealed significant inadequacies.

The report has found that a quarter of autopsies performed for coroners are of a poor or unacceptable standard - of the 1,691 autopsies examined 436 were judged as poor or unacceptable.

The study was requested by the Royal College of Pathologists who wanted to highlight the pressures its members were working under.  The report found that only 64% of mortuaries could store fixed tissues and organs which hindered the work of many pathologists.  The study team also discovered that the brain was not examined in 238 cases and elderly men were not examined as carefully as younger subjects.

The study team called for a review of the system, saying many bereaved families were being "sold short".   They also called for better communication between coroners and pathologists and for standard procedures to be introduced.  The report recommended a complete review of the system which, it says, does not currently encourage good practice. 

Also under fire was the current autopsy fee of £87.70 which the report found was undervalued and placed increased pressure on pathologists.  The report author, Pathologist Professor Sebastian Lucas, said, “We don't know what the average cost of a coroner's post-mortem is, but one has to recognise that the current fee is inadequate.  Autopsies are all different and some require more tests than others, which increases the costs. We need to be more astute as to the true cost."

A draft Coroner Reform Bill is due to be placed before parliament by the Department of Constitutional Affairs following further consultation. 

 

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