Changes in clinical and legal autopsy rates in Korea from 2001 to 2015

Jong Pil Park, Se Hoon Kim, Sookyoung Lee, Seong Ho Yoo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The autopsy is the medical examination of a deceased person that mainly provides information on the cause and manner of death. Two types are conducted in Korea: clinical and legal, depending on its purpose. Despite this procedure's importance, autopsy rates have been decreasing worldwide. The aim of this study was to determine the nationwide autopsy rate in Korea and compare it with that in other countries. Methods: We collected data of autopsies performed between 2001 and 2015 by searching previously published literature on autopsy statistics and by requesting data from the relevant institutions. We calculated the autopsy rate by using mortality data from Statistics Korea; furthermore, we investigated the type of autopsy performed by institution as well as by geographical region. Results: The total autopsy rate in Korea increased from 2.16% in 2001 to 2.60% in 2015. In terms of autopsy types, however, clinical autopsy rates decreased from 0.17% in 2001 to 0.03% in 2015, while legal autopsy rates increased from 1.99% to 2.57% during the same period. Moreover, the clinical autopsy rate tended to decrease throughout the period, while the legal autopsy rate fluctuated between 2001 and 2010 but steadily increased thereafter. Conclusion: The autopsy rate in Korea is lower compared to that of the advanced countries. These findings implicate the need for nationwide policy to promote both clinical and legal autopsy, which remain crucial parts of medical science and public health.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere301
JournalJournal of Korean medical science
Issue number47
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Korean Academy of Medical Sciences.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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