Document Detail

Impact of coronial investigations on manner and cause of death determinations in Australia, 2000-2007.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  20402607     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the changes in the understanding of the manner and cause of death occurring during the course of coronial investigations. DESIGN: Retrospective analysis of deaths reported to coroners in Australia between 1 July 2000 and 31 December 2007, using the National Coroners Information System. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: (i) Manner of death (natural, external, unknown); (ii) intent classification (eg, unintentional injury, suicide, assault) among deaths with external causes; and, (iii) changes in the manner of death and intent classification between the presumption made at case notification and the coroner's final determination. RESULTS: The coronial investigation changed the presumption about manner of death or intent classification in 5.2% (6222/120 452) of cases in which a presumption was made. Among deaths with a change in attribution from natural causes to external causes, unintentional falls (442/1891) and pharmaceutical poisoning (427/1891) each accounted for 23%. Among deaths with attribution changing from external causes to natural causes, the leading medical causes of death were cardiovascular compromise (551/842; 65%) and infection (124/842; 15%). Of deaths understood correctly at notification to be due to external causes, but the wrong external cause, 34% (206/600) were ultimately judged to be unintentional injuries, and 22% (133/600) were judged to be suicides. CONCLUSIONS: Coronial investigations transform basic understanding of cause of death in only a small minority of cases. However, the benefits to families and society of accurate cause-of-death determinations in these difficult cases may be considerable.
David M Studdert; Stephen M Cordner
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Evaluation Studies; Journal Article    
Journal Detail:
Title:  The Medical journal of Australia     Volume:  192     ISSN:  0025-729X     ISO Abbreviation:  Med. J. Aust.     Publication Date:  2010 Apr 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2010-04-20     Completed Date:  2010-06-07     Revised Date:  -    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  0400714     Medline TA:  Med J Aust     Country:  Australia    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  444-7     Citation Subset:  IM    
Melbourne Law School and Melbourne School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
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MeSH Terms
Age Distribution
Age Factors
Australia / epidemiology
Autopsy / methods*,  statistics & numerical data*
Cause of Death* / trends
Coroners and Medical Examiners / organization & administration*
Death Certificates*
Middle Aged
Mortality* / trends
Retrospective Studies
Sex Distribution
Sex Factors
Wounds and Injuries / classification*,  mortality
Young Adult

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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