Improving Cause-of-Death Reporting Glossary
This glossary provides definitions for some of the more frequently encountered terms in this course.
Click the term in the list on the left to see its definition.
A cause of death that is listed in the cause-of-death sequence without an explanation of why it occurred (i.e., a cause listed without an etiology).
See also Cause of Death.
On a death certificate, “cause of death” includes the sequence of medical conditions that had the greatest impact in causing death and the approximate time intervals between the onset of each condition and death.
The section of the death certificate that lists the sequence of medical conditions that had the greatest impact in causing death and the approximate time intervals between the onset of each condition and death. This section also lists any significant conditions that contributed to the individual’s death but were not a part of the sequence of conditions that led directly to death.
The certifier, usually a physician, determines and accurately records the sequence of medical conditions that resulted in death. The certifier also signs the death certificate, which legally certifies that to the best of their knowledge, the individual died for the reasons listed in the cause-of-death section of the certificate.
See also Pronouncer.
Terms that are used to define death (such as cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, asystole, etc.) should not be included in the cause-of-death statement.
See also Cause of Death.
A death that involves accident, suicide, or homicide must be referred to a coroner or medical examiner. The coroner or medical examiner is responsible for completing the death certificate in such cases. “Coroner Cases” are also known as “Medical Examiner Cases.”
See also Medical Examiner Cases.
Some local and state health departments use a paper version of the death certificate, while others may require that these certificates be transmitted via a computer or some other electronic device. This latter version of the certificate is referred to as an “electronic certificate.”
The cause, set of causes, or manner of causation of a disease or condition.
For example, paraplegia has many possible causes including an injury, cerebrovascular accident, or multiple sclerosis. Similarly, sepsis may be described more specifically by including a description of the causative organisms (e.g., bacterial, Gram negative, Streptococcus pneumoniae, depending on the level of detail available), as well as the underlying condition(s) that created the risk for sepsis (e.g., sickle cell anemia, indwelling urinary catheter due to neurologic bladder due to multiple sclerosis, etc.).
The funeral director, or the person acting as such, is responsible for completing the demographic, next of kin, and burial information on the death certificate.
A death that involves accident, suicide, or homicide must be referred to a coroner or medical examiner. The coroner or medical examiner is responsible for completing the death certificate in such cases. “Medical Examiner Cases” are also known as “Coroner Cases.”
See also Coroner Cases.
This person determines that the death occurred and can be the same person as the certifier.