The Head, Department of Pathology, School of Medical Sciences of the College of Health and Allied Sciences (CoHAS), University of Cape Coast, Dr. Kafui P. Akakpo has stated that the quest to find the truth has always underpinned autopsy practice.
“The quest to find the truth has always driven autopsy practice and will continue to be the reason for autopsy”.
Speaking at a Public Lecture at the University, under the topic “Autopsy Practice in Ghana, the Past, Present and Future” the pathologist indicated that the introduction of autopsy practice into medicine has opened the door for understanding of disease process. “Hitherto, physicians spent years taking notes by externally examining patients without understanding the changes that occurred in the body organs as a result of the effect of diseases in these various organs”.
According to Dr. Akakpo, autopsy has also been an integral part of law and has been of immense value in the investigation of both natural and unnatural deaths. For this reason, a lot of autopsies, which include both clinical or academic and medico-legal autopsies, are done each year in this country. In the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital for example, 250 autopsies are carried out each year with 87% of that been medico-legal as well as 52% of these deaths being young adults, he stated.
Dr. Akakpo’s lecture explored the history of autopsy practice the world-over, looked at relationship between autopsy practice and religion, the laws that govern autopsy practice in Ghana and the key players involved in the enterprise. He said it was important to use people who have died to study diseases to serve as basis for predicting what will happen in the future by way of diseases and deaths.
The lecturer therefore urged the general public to report all unnatural deaths to the police for investigations to be carried out “since autopsy answers the final question why did life pass from a specific human being. It is to establish the cause and manner of death of an identified deceased which goes to benefit the relations, physician and society”.
The Consultant Pathologist, recommended that in order to improve the practice of autopsy, measures must be taken to establish a dedicated forensic service, fashioning out of practice guide and a review of the existing law guiding the practice since it has become “too old”.