The value of cause of death data

Medical certification of cause of death

Coding causes of death to statistical categories
The International Classification of Diseases

Cause of death: where there is no physician
Verbal autopsy diagnostic algorithms

Automated verbal autopsy
What is automated verbal autopsy and how does it differ from medical certification of cause of death?

Incorporating verbal autopsy into the civil registration and vital statistics system

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Medical certification of cause of death

Training and skills development

To ensure that physicians can competently certify deaths in accordance with international guidelines and standards, they must receive basic training in death certification and understand the importance of good COD information. 

Initial basic education on the principles and the importance for health of death certification, and instruction on how to complete a death certificate, as well as options for refresher training, should be provided at distinct phases for medical students, interns and practicing physicians.

Materials to support this training have been developed as part of a core curriculum for certifiers by the education and implementation committee of the Collaborating Centres for the WHO Family of International Classifications.

In addition, WHO has developed a self-teaching module on COD certification in the ICD 10th revision training package which is freely available on the WHO website. 

The University of Melbourne has developed a generic curriculum that countries can to adapt to suit their curriculum requirements. It covers: 

  1. Concept of underlying COD
  2. Guidelines for death certifications
  3. Death certification assessment
  4. Overview of ICD-10.

Read more

Aung E et al (2010).  Teaching cause-of-death certification: lessons from international experience.  Postgraduate Medical Journal,

The Pan American Health Organization self-paced course on properly completing death certificates for doctors is available at

Rampatige R et al (2013).  Engaging physicians in improved cause of death certification: evaluation of an education intervention.  The Lancet.

United States Centers for Disease Control  Physician’s handbook on Medical Certification of Cause of Death.  

Walker S et al (2012).  An accessible method for teaching doctors about death certification.  Health Information Management Journal.

WHO Family of International Classifications & International Federation of Health Information Management Associations  (2011). Core Curriculum – Underlying cause of death coders including Learning objectives

The World Health Organization offers a free, online, self-paced course on the basics of death certification is available

Our MCCOD course  

 Action guide on improving the quality of COD data in hospitals
Action guide on improving the quality of COD data in hospitals

Provides eight key action areas to improve the quality of cause of death data in hospitals.

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Publication date: April 2018

Resource type: CRVS action guide

Related resources: Strategies for improving the quality of cause of death data in hospitals

Strategies for improving the quality of cause of death data in hospitals

This paper outlines the importance of accurate medical certification of cause of death, and provides eight strategies that hospitals can implement to improve the accuracy and consistency of cause of death data drawn from medical records.

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Author: University of Melbourne

Publication date: April 2018 (update)

Resource type: CRVS development series

Related resources: Action guide on improving the quality of cause of death data in hospitals

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