The number of coroner post-mortem examinations carried out each year in England and Wales could be reduced by more than 60 per cent, a leading pathologist said.
Professor Derrick Pounder advised that up to 80,000 dissections could be avoided by adopting a system of post-mortem examinations used in Scotland.
In a paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Prof Pounder said the external examinations procedure would be a more cost-effective method of identifying cause of death.
The paper says that the post-mortem examination rate for England and Wales of 110,000 coronial autopsies for every 500,000 deaths is "between double and triple the rate in other jurisdictions".
The authors, led by Prof Pounder of the Centre for Forensic and Legal Medicine at the University of Dundee, said: "There is a general lack of evidence about the utility of and justification for such a high level of activity."
"While the autopsy is an important tool in modern death investigation, an almost automatic recourse to it is inappropriate.
"External examinations are not only cost-effective but also a
necessary element in any death investigative system which wishes to strike an appropriate balance between intrusion by the state and the rights of the bereaved."