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In cases of unexplained or unexpected death, the autopsy is the key to finding the answers. But oftentimes the answers are never known: Only around 5% of hospital deaths result in an autopsy.
Not only is it troubling for family members who want answers as to how their loved ones died, the CDC says it may be collecting inaccurate causes of death from death certificates – which could also mean skewed statistics and diverted research dollars. Health insurance doesn’t cover the cost of autopsies, meaning families would have to find a way to pay for them out of pocket.
The Joint Commission mandated until 1971 that hospitals be required to perform autopsies of at least 20% of hospital deaths. There has been a renewed call for the commission to renew that mandate, but costs and availability of resources make it unlikely that it will happen anytime soon.