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Is Post Mortem Practice in Terminal Decline and Should We Care?
  1. Jeanne E Bell
  1. Professor of Neuropathology, University of Edinburgh, UK; E-mail: jeanne.bell{at}


Since 2000 the hospital post mortem rate has been in free fall and is now less than 5% of deaths in many hospitals in the UK. A major factor in this decline has been the turmoil following events in Bristol and in Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool where organs were retained apparently without the knowledge or consent of the bereaved. There is now a real danger of hospital post mortem examinations (PMEs) disappearing altogether, with the associated loss of the necessary skills amongst consultant pathologists. Does this matter?

To answer the question we need to focus on what has been achieved through examination of post mortem human brains in the past, specifically for neurological disorders. Firstly, collections of diseased and normal cases in Brain Banks have facilitated the discovery of new diseases such as Dementia with Lewy Bodies and variant CJD. Secondly, the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying long recognized diseases

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