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A crisis of pathology

Pathology is central to the fight against disease and used to be one of the most respected branches of medicine. But modern trends are making it harder to practise and since the Alder Hey scandal of missing baby organs it has been politically unpopular

By Sue Armstrong   February 2009

Pathology is the cornerstone of modern medicine. The science, which seeks to understand disease and disease processes, has replaced the myth and superstition of traditional medicine with a rational basis for care of the unwell. Judging by the popularity of television dramas like CSI and Silent Witness, in which pathologists solve baffling murder cases, the speciality should be flourishing. Yet in Britain today not only are most of us unaware of its importance, many people have become actively hostile towards the profession.

The popular misconception of the pathologist as “doctor of death” endures—a white-coated scientist bending over a cadaver, pronouncing…

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