Pathologist calls for more autopsies, says many causes of death are wrong

Photo: Darnyi Zsóka via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Darnyi Zsóka wikimedia commons

An autopsy should be standard procedure when people under the age of 40 die so heath care policies can be more precise, a leading pathologist has told the AD.

At the moment only 3,000 of all 150,000 deaths are investigated, usually to determine of if the cause of death is related to crime.

‘In most cases doctors put pneumonia, stroke, heart attack etc as the cause of death. But you can’t see whether that is really what killed a person from the outside. The subsequent conclusion is that heart disease is the number one cause of the death in the Netherlands. But we don’t really know whether that’s true unless we investigate,’ pathologist Frank van de Goot told the AD.

Van de Goot wants to phase in autopsies for all, beginning with deaths occurring under the age of 40. To pay for the extra costs, the pathologists said the autopsy could be included in the health care package. ‘It stops at death but it should really cover everything, including the funeral,’ he told the paper.

Autopsy findings could be of ‘incalculable value’, according to Van de Goot. ‘My estimation is that in the Netherlands more people die of infectious diseases than of heart disease.

‘Last year a nasty flu was doing the rounds which killed quite a few people. But we don’t know how many,’ he said.

‘I had perhaps ten of them on my table. Two were said to be suicides because pills were found, and one drove into a ditch. Two were said to have died of heart attacks. All wrong and all ending up in the statistics that are used as a basis for policies. Vaccination programmes, information campaigns, the lot. It’s incredibly far-reaching,’ the paper quotes him as saying.

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