Korean J Leg Med.  2009 May;33(1):10-18.

The Discrepancy of the Causes of Death between Medical Death Certificates and Autopsy Reports

  • 1Department of Forensic Medicine, Chonnam National University Medical School, Gwang-Ju, Korea. jtpark@jnu.ac.kr
  • 2The Research Institute of Forensic Science, Chonnam National University Medical School, Gwang-Ju, Korea.
  • 3Chonnam National University Law School, Gwang-Ju, Korea.
  • 4Center for Biomedical Human Resources, Chonnam National University, Gwang-Ju, Korea.


BACKGROUND: The Postmortem examination certificate and death certificate prove deaths of human and supply important data used to establish health statistics. However, not only the format of the form itself, but the accuracy of postmortem examination certificate and death certificate has errors which needs further study such as comparing with the postmortem study such as autopsy.
We reviewed 206 autopsies which were performed in the Department of Forensic Medicine of Chonnam National University Medical School from January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2008 and compared with their postmortem examination certificates and death certificates for analysis.
Of the 174 cases submitted with death certifications, total 67 cases accorded with cause of death on the autopsy report. Eighty six cases had clear descriptions of cause of death. Of those 86 cases, 46 were from postmortem examination, 40 were from death certificates and 23 were natural deaths, 63 were unnatural deaths. Each of them, the accordant rates were 63.0% (29 cases/46cases), 77.5% (31 cases/40 cases), 43.5% (10 cases/23 cases), and 79.4% (50 cases/63 cases). From these results, we found various erroneous types in postmortem examination certificates and death certificates.
This study brings into realization there is a high rate of discrepancy between causes of death on the death certificates and postmortem examination certificates. And also, there are a few useful death certificate and postmortem examination certificate. Therefore, we want to propose several remedies to increase the accuracy of death certificate and postmortem death certificate.


postmortem examination certificate; death certificate; cause of death; discrepancy; autopsy

MeSH Terms

Cause of Death
Death Certificates
Forensic Medicine
Schools, Medical
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