Tabulation and generation of vital statistics for national policy
Data limitations and transparency
Data limitations and delays should not keep data from being published, provided that the publishing agency is transparent about these delays and limitations. If reasonable data quality assessments have been undertaken but the data are incomplete, the data can still be useful if made available with appropriate explanations of its limitations – that is, that certain territories are not covered, or only major urban areas are covered, or data for some regions are estimated to be only 60% complete.
Similarly, if delays in tion occur because a number of external causes of death cannot be finalised within the usual period (perhaps because of lengthy legal procedures), it is preferable to publish the data in a timely way, and revise them once the legal outcome is known. If the revision is of the data is significant, an explanation needs to be given so as not to bias the annual data.
Example from the UK
Causes of death determined through a coronial enquiry constitute a special case. Often these are included in the data for the year of the outcome of the inquiry rather than year of occurrence, especially when there is a long time lapse.
In the case of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in the UK where 96 people died in a stadium crush, although the deaths were registered they were not included in national vital statistics pending the findings of a coronial enquiry. A first investigation concluded that the underlying cause of death was accidental. This was immediately disputed, however, and a second enquiry during 2014-2016 concluded that the underlying cause of death was manslaughter by gross negligence. These deaths were added to the national and local vital statistics system in 2016, 27 years after the event, leading to a sudden rise in homicide deaths for the Liverpool area where the disaster occurred.