Autopsy

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Mission

  • To thoroughly evaluate the presence and extent of human disease in patients succumbing to those diseases, and to evaluate the effectiveness of therapeutic procedures, for the benefit of patient families, our staff, and the future practice of medicine
  • To educate our house staff, house staff and medical staff in other departments, and medical students in the physical manifestation of human disease and in post-mortem examination procedures
  • To develop quality assurance data and outcomes measures statistics for the Yale-New Haven Hospital

People

The autopsy service is staffed by four full time autopsy technicians, including the manager of the service, Arthur Belanger. The medical and administrative aspects of the service are conducted under the direction of Dr. Kisha Mitchell. The department has over a dozen Pathologists attending to an average total of approximately 250 autopsies annually. Dr. Alexander Vortmeyer and Dr. Anita Huttner attend for Neuropathology examinations.

Facility

In October of 1994, we began using our new, state-of-the-art autopsy facility, officially dedicated in December, 1994. This facility includes two of the most modern autopsy rooms in the world, with negative pressure ventilation and observation rooms. In addition, there are special rooms for cutting in gross specimens, tissue preparation, and development of special procedures.

Statistics

Nationwide, autopsy rates have been declining. Whereas in the 1950's nearly half of all in-hospital deaths were evaluated at autopsy, that number has dropped to below 10%. This drop has been attributed to a number of causes, including misconceptions on the part of the medical staff and families about autopsy procedures and the continued value of the autopsy. Autopsies continue to advance our understanding of disease, and benefit house staff in pathology, the clinical staff, and potentially other patients who are currently suffering from similar diseases. What we learn from autopsies allows clinicians to more accurately diagnose diseases and to improve therapy. It is the policy of the Yale-New Haven Hospital that autopsies are to be requested on ALL in hospital deaths. There is no charge to the family for an autopsy on anyone who has ever been a patient of the Yale-New Haven Hospital, and even a complete autopsy does not in any way interfere with the viewing of the body at a funeral. Yale has consistently maintained a higher overall autopsy rate than the national average, and several new programs have been initiated to improve our current rate.