Unlike the medical examiner's office in New Mexico, which routinely autopsies sudden or violent deaths, most U.S. hospitals perform postmortem examinations only rarely. John W. Poole/NPR hide caption

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Shirley Holden, 78, has been coming to Hood Memorial Hospital since 1971. She says if the hospital were to close, she'd mostly stay home. "I would not be going ... anywhere else unless I went on a stretcher." Jenny Gold/for NPR hide caption

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Triage nurses screen patients in the ER waiting room at the University of Chicago Medical Center in Chicago in late 2010. Patients in Chicago were among those least satisfied with their hospital care. M. Spencer Green/AP hide caption

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Construction at the new Nemours Children's Hospital, at the medical city at Lake Nona, Fla., in late 2010. Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel hide caption

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