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Medical certification of cause of death

Guidance on completing the International Form of Medical Certificate of Cause of Death

Some deaths result from a sequence of events involving more than one disease or condition. It is important that the certifier records all the main contributing diseases and conditions, and the length of time for which the deceased had them, to allow the coder to correctly identify the UCOD.

Some general guidelines for correct death certification include:

  • Always use consecutive lines – never leave blank lines within the sequence of events.
  • Each condition listed in Part 1 should cause the condition above it.
  • If there is only one COD, it is entered at 1(a).
  • The entry must be legible –use black ink.
  • Do not make alterations or erasures – if an entry needs to be deleted, a single line should be drawn through it; do not use correction fluid.
  • Verify the accuracy of identification data with the family of the deceased – including the correct spelling of the name of the deceased.
  • Do not use abbreviations.
  • Enter only one disease condition or event per line.

Handbook for doctors on cause of death certification thumbnail
Handbook for doctors on cause of death certification

These are generic guidelines about how to certify the cause of death, written for physicians and medical students, particularly in developing countries.

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More Info

Author: University of Melbourne

Publication date: September 2019 (update)

Resource type: CRVS technical guide

Related resources: Medical certification of cause of death: Quick reference guide


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