Korean J Leg Med.  2012 May;36(1):27-33. 10.7580/KoreanJLegMed.2012.36.1.27.

Discrepant Causes of Death between Medical Death Certificates and Autopsy Reports (II)

  • 1Department of Forensic Medicine and the Research Institute of Forensic Science, Chonnam National University Medical School, Gwangju, Korea. comaforever@naver.com
  • 2Division of Forensic Medicine, National Forensic Service, Seoul, Korea.
  • 3Chonnam National University Law School, Gwangju, Korea.


The postmortem examination certificate and death certificate provide proof of death and supply important data used to establish health statistics. However, the format of the form and the accuracy of postmortem examination and death certificates yield errors that must be corrected by comparison with postmortem studies. We reviewed 401 autopsies performed in the Department of Forensic Medicine of Chonnam National University Medical School from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2011 and compared the reports with their postmortem examination certificates and death certificates. Of the 252 cases submitted with death certifications, 60 cases were concordant with the cause of death on the autopsy report. Eighty-nine cases had clear descriptions of the cause of death. Of these cases, 47 were from postmortem examination, 42 were from death certificates; 17 were natural deaths, 72 were unnatural. Concordance in each group was 59.6% (28/47 cases), 76.2% (32/42 cases), 41.2% (7/17 cases), and 73.6% (53/72 cases). We thus identified various types of errors in postmortem examination and death certificates. This study reveals a high rate of discrepancy between causes of death reported on death certificates and postmortem examination certificates. There are a few useful death certificate and postmortem examination certificates that can be used as a model, based on which we propose several remedies to increase the accuracy of death and postmortem examination certificates.


postmortem examination certificate; death certificate; death; discrepancy; autopsy

MeSH Terms

Cause of Death
Death Certificates
Forensic Medicine
Schools, Medical
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