Deaths may be certified by either a medical practitioner or a coroner. Natural causes are predominantly certified by doctors, whereas External and Unknown causes are usually certified by a coroner. However, some deaths for natural causes are referred to coroners for investigation, for example unaccompanied deaths.
Doctor certified deaths
Deaths which were certified by a doctor or medical practitioner, which were not required to be referred on to a coroner.
External causes of death
Deaths due to causes external to the body (for example suicide, transport accidents, falls, poisoning etc).
International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. The purpose of the ICD is to permit the systematic recording, analysis, interpretation and comparison of mortality and morbidity data collected in different countries or areas and at different times. The ICD, which is endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is primarily designed for the classification of diseases and injuries with a formal diagnosis. See Explanatory Notes, paragraphs 18-21 for more information on ICD. Further information also is available from the WHO website www.who.int
Multiple causes of death
All morbid conditions, diseases and injuries entered on the death certificate. These include those involved in the morbid train of events leading to death which were classified as either the underlying cause, the immediate cause, or any intervening causes and those conditions which contributed to death, but were not related to the disease or condition causing death. For deaths where the underlying cause was identified as an external cause (for example, injury or poisoning, etc) multiple causes include circumstances of injury, the nature of injury as well as any other conditions reported on the death certificate.
Natural cause of death
Deaths due to diseases (for example diabetes, cancer, heart disease etc), which are not external or unknown.
Underlying cause of death
The disease or injury which initiated the train of morbid events leading directly to death. Accidental and violent deaths are classified according to the external cause, that is, to the circumstances of the accident or violence which produced the fatal injury rather than to the nature of the injury.
Unknown cause of death
Deaths where it is unable to be determined whether the cause was natural or external.
This page last updated 26 November 2009