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Info About Death Cerrtificates

Just as birth certificates attest to an individual’s birth, a death certificate refers to documents issued by a medical practitioner that certify an individual’s death. Vital statistics listed on a death certificate include the date of death, location and cause of death. This information is later entered in an official register of deaths.

The first US standardized death certificates around 1901. The goals were to improve uniformity of the death reporting process and to facilitate accurate record keeping. Originally, records of deaths were maintained by local churches. But, when European countries began to pursue centralized reporting and recording systems, the US moved in the same direction.

The US system for death recordings has undergone modest changes. Most recently, death certificate information post 1990 was changed in several states that chose to erase specific cause of natural death information pursuant to HIV confidentiality regulations.

In these states, the cause of death is categorized into general classifications such as; accidental, homicide, suicide or death declared in absentia. All other deaths are described as “natural.” However, immediate family members, law enforcement agencies and governmental authorities, like health and safety associations, can obtain death certificates that contain the full and accurate cause of death, including in natural deaths.

There are instances where death certificates and death information for a minor or an infant can be kept confidential if requested by a legal guardian. This information is not available to the general public and may only be obtained through immediate family members.

For the most part, death certificates and deaths statistics are considered public information. As such, this information serves important uses.

Uses of Death Certificates

Death certificates establish facts pertaining to an individual’s death. These facts include confirmation of an individual’s death and the date of death. This information is important to:

• Claim any and all life insurance benefits

• Claiming the deceased individual’s pension benefits

• Settling the deceased individual’s estate

Death certificates also establish certain facts about the deceased person, including:

• Cause and circumstances of death

• Death date

• Place of internment

• Proof of age, gender and race

• Genealogical information

Data extracted from death certificates is used by health and information agencies to identify health trends and to monitor health policy in the US. Death certificate information is used to:

• Measure life expectancy

• Monitor infant and newborn deaths

• Establish incidence of specific causes of death

• Monitor the tracks of communicable diseases

• Monitor risk factors that lead to premature fatalities

• Help investigate the nature of deaths in the US

• Generate information relative to accidental and fatal deaths

• Assess environmental hazards

• Assess occupational hazards

It is safe to say that we learn a great deal from death certificates, more than we do from birth certificates. Hopefully, the information on death certificates can help prevent accidental deaths and occupation fatalities in the future.

Relevance of Vital Statistics

Birth certificate sand death certificates are examples of two elements of vital statistics. Vital statistics serves researchers well and are especially important for:

• Health research and epidemiology

• Identifying important health issues

• Targeting specific problem areas

• Planning new health services

• Evaluating the progress of new health services

• Assist in funding decisions

• Prioritizing the best allocations of available resources

• Supporting and passing new legislation

• Obtaining government grants

• Obtaining private funding

• Fraud reduction in pension and benefit programs

Certified copies of death certificates can be obtained from the county where the death occurred or from online death certificate or vital statistic providers.