Death certificates can be an uncomfortable topic for obvious reasons, but the information on a death certificate can be important down the road, so it is critical that it be correct.

A recent New York Times article explores why death certificate information is so important, and the article cites a blog post by Litigation Consultant Kim Beane on Womble Bond Dickinson’s Law Meets Science Blog. Beane’s post, “Cause of Death on Death Certificates: Not a Legal Conclusion”, takes an in-depth look at death certificates and how they are used in litigation.

“The death certificate may be critical in a lawsuit for many reasons, not the least of which is potential liability, as well as the nature of the death, contributing factors to the death, the timeframe of the death, and illnesses that may have impacted the death but not directly caused it,” Beane writes. “But how reliable is the death certificate, the document in which so many place their faith and legal filing fees?  Maybe not as much as we would like to think.”

In addition, the New York Times notes that accurate causes of death are important for scientific research, and inaccurate information can undersell how lethal certain diseases may be. For example, if a Parkinson’s patient has poor balance and dies from injuries suffered in a fall, the underlying condition may not be noted in the death certificate, but it is directly responsible for the person’s death.  

Click here to read “When the Death Certificate Omits the True Cause of Death” in the New York Times.