Saturday, February 9, 2013

Death Certificates Often Inaccurate

My opinion:  I've honestly never thought about this before.  My dad is rather knowledgeable of the legal system, and I'm sure that this is so important, to some extent, because of the legal consequences that might follow.  What if this causes the family to believe they have a history of conditions that never existed?  Could the family sue if they are incorrectly diagnosed down the road?  Maybe this is a stretch, although there are other reasons mentioned.  For example, this could alter statistical data, which in turn could mislead health providers into focusing on less important diseases or conditions.  I also wonder if, due to the stress of treating the patient, doctors relax a little too early when the patient dies and simply try to zip through the death certificate process.  Any thought?  Feel free to comment. 

Death certificates are vital documents that serve as the primary source of information for families, insurance companies and authorities about a patient’s cause of death. The information also helps policymakers set public health goals and research funding priorities.
But signing a death certificate is not always a straightforward process.
Physicians often face uncertainties about an individual’s cause of death or how to answer the portions of certificates they are responsible for. Although the basic format has changed little in the last few decades, doctors face difficulties as some states attempt to convert from paper to electronic certificates.
Doctors need to recognize the importance of the documents and be as specific as possible, said Gregory McDonald, DO, chief deputy coroner of Montgomery County in Pennsylvania.
Information on death certificates is reported to the CDC and used in compiling national mortality data.
“Their duty doesn’t end when the patient dies,” Dr. McDonald said. “A lot of physicians when they’re signing a death certificate don’t realize that what they put down has some real, long-term ramifications.”

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