Forensics & autopsy
Death certificate

Topic Completed: 1 February 2012

Minor changes: 23 August 2019

Copyright: (c) 2012-2019,, Inc.

PubMed search: death certificate [title]

Lindsey Harle, M.D.
Page views in 2019: 161
Page views in 2020 to date: 101
Cite this page: Harle L. Death certificate. website. Accessed August 7th, 2020.
  • To legally document that death occurred
  • To provide mortality statistics for public health purposes, which influences allocation of funding for research and public health initiatives
Certifier of death
  • Physician, medical examiner, or coroner who completes the "cause of death" section on the death certificate, including information regarding the circumstances of death
  • Cause of death and circumstances represent the certifier's opinion
  • Not legally binding, and can be changed if new information regarding the death is introduced
How to complete the death certificate
  • The cause of death should always be listed
  • If an acute mechanism of death is known, this can be stated as the primary cause of death; the underlying cause of death should always be listed below

  • Incorrect cause of death: Respiratory arrest
  • Correct cause of death: Complications of pneumonia or respiratory arrest due to pneumonia

  • Incorrect cause of death: Cardiac arrest
  • Correct cause of death: Acute myocardial infarction or cardiac arrest due to acute myocardial infarction
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