-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- The autopsy rate in the
United States has declined from about one in five to one in 10
Americans from 1972 to 2007, according to a new federal study.
This accounts for a 58 percent drop between 1972 and 2007, from
19.3 percent to 8.5 percent of deaths, the researchers noted.
In 1972, deaths due to disease accounted for 79 percent of
autopsies, while deaths due to external causes such as injury or
murder accounted for 19 percent. By 2007, the respective
percentages were 46 percent and 50 percent, the investigators
External causes of death -- including murder, accidental injury,
suicide or undetermined cause -- accounted for nine of the 10 most
frequently autopsied causes of death in 2007.
In 2007, autopsy rates declined with age, from 60 percent of
deaths of people aged 15 to 24, 55.8 percent at ages 25 to 34, 11
percent at ages 55 to 64, and 4.2 percent at ages 65 to 74,
according to the study by the National Center for Health Statistics
at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study also reported that while the number of deaths among
older people increased from 1972 to 2007, autopsied deaths were
increasingly concentrated in the 1 to 34 and 35 to 64 age
Even though 91 percent of deaths in the United States in 2007
were caused by disease, death due to complications of pregnancy,
childbirth and puerperium (the state of a woman during and up to
six weeks after childbirth) was the only grouped disease condition
among the 10 most frequently autopsied causes of death.
Just over half of deaths due to complications of pregnancy,
childbirth and puerperium were autopsied in 2007.
Reasons for the changing autopsy rates are not entirely clear,
but may be related to hospital accreditation standards, state laws
about which deaths should be investigated and regulations created
since 1972 about investigating infant deaths, according to the
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
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