Cause of death

In law, medicine, and statistics, cause of death is an official determination of conditions resulting in a human's death, which may be recorded on a death certificate. A cause of death is determined by a medical examiner. The cause of death is a specific disease or injury, in contrast to the manner of death which is a small number of categories like "natural", "accident", and "homicide", which have different legal implications.[1]

International Classification of Disease (ICD) codes are often used to record manner and cause of death in a systematic way that makes it easy to compile statistics and more feasible to compare events across jurisdictions.[2]

Accuracy concerns

A study published in Preventing Chronic Disease found that only one-third of New York City resident physicians reported believing that the present system of documentation was accurate. Half reported the inability to record "what they felt to be the correct cause of death", citing reasons such as technical limitation and instruction to "put something else". Nearly four-fifths reported being unaware that determinations of "probable", "presumed", or "undetermined" could be made, and fewer than three percent reported ever updating a death certificate when conflicting lab results or other new information became available, and cardiovascular disease was indicated as "the most frequent diagnosis inaccurately reported".[3]

Causes of death are sometimes disputed by relatives or members of the public, particularly when some degree of uncertainty or ambiguity exists in relation to the cause of death. On occasion, such disputes may result from, or sometimes instigate, a conspiracy theory.

Public perception of the relative risk of death by various causes is biased by personal experience and by media coverage. The phrase "hierarchy of death" is sometimes used to describe the factors that cause some deaths to get more attention than others.


Health departments discourage listing old age as the cause of death because doing so does not benefit public health or medical research.[4] Old age is not a scientifically recognized cause of death; there is always a more direct cause, although it may be unknown in certain cases and could be one of a number of aging-associated diseases. As an indirect or non-determinative factor, biological aging is the biggest contributor to deaths worldwide. It is estimated that of the roughly 150,000 people who die each day across the globe, about two thirds—100,000 per day—die of age-related causes.[5] In industrialized nations the proportion is much higher, reaching 90%.[5]

Death caused by emotional state

There are also popular notions that someone can be "scared to death" or die of loneliness or heartbreak. Experiencing fear, extreme stress, or both can cause changes in the body that can, in turn, lead to death. For example, it is possible that overstimulation of the Vagus nerve—which decreases heart rate in a mechanism related to the behavior of apparent death (also known as "playing dead" and "playing possum")—is the cause of documented cases of psychogenic death. The flight or fight response to fear or stress has the opposite effect, increasing heart rate through stress hormones, and can cause cardiovascular problems (especially in those with pre-existing conditions). This is the proposed mechanism for the observed increase in the death rate due to cardiac arrest after widely experienced acutely stressful events such as terrorism, military attacks, and natural disasters (even among those who are not in the affected area) and for documented deaths in muggings and other frightening events which caused no traumatic physical harm.[6][7] The proximal medical cause of death in these cases is likely to be recorded as cardiac failure or vagal inhibition (which also has other potential causes such as blows to certain parts of the body and nerve injuries).[8]

One specific condition observed to result from acute stress, takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is nicknamed "broken heart syndrome", but the stress need not be relationship-related and need not be negative.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Cause & Manner of Death - Medical Examiner, Snohomish County, Washington
  3. ^ Wexelman, Barbara A.; Eden, Edward; Rose, Keith M. (2013). "Survey of New York City Resident Physicians on Cause-of-Death Reporting, 2010". Preventing Chronic Disease. 10. doi:10.5888/pcd10.120288. ISSN 1545-1151. PMC 3664206. PMID 23660118.
  4. ^ "Reporting Causes of Death for the Elderly" (PDF). Oregon Health Authority. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
  5. ^ a b Aubrey D.N.J, de Grey (2007). "Life Span Extension Research and Public Debate: Societal Considerations" (PDF). Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology. 1 (1, Article 5). CiteSeerX doi:10.2202/1941-6008.1011. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 13, 2016. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
  6. ^ Ballantyne, Coco. "Can a person be scared to death?".
  7. ^ "Can you literally be scared to death? Science says yes". 24 October 2012.
  8. ^ healthdrip. "Vagal inhibition – Health Drip". Archived from the original on 2017-01-13. Retrieved 2017-02-09.
  9. ^ "Is Broken Heart Syndrome Real?".
2013 Baku protests

A protest took place on January 12, 2013 in Baku, Azerbaijan after Azerbaijani Army soldier Ceyhun Qubadov was found dead on January 7, 2013. It was first reported that the cause of death was heart attack. Qubadov's family asked for an investigation as they believed it was a murder.On January 10, 2013, a Facebook event was created. A day later about 13,600 joined it, the next day the number of users joined was 20,000.Hundreds of protesters gathered at the Fountains Square on January 12 with demands of resignation of Safar Abiyev, the Azerbaijani Defense Minister. They held slogans such as "Stop killing our soldiers" and "You must answer to us."

Alfred Leonard Cline

Alfred Leonard Cline (1888 – August 5, 1948), also known as "Buttermilk Bluebeard", was an alleged American serial killer responsible for murdering at least nine people.


An autopsy (post-mortem examination, obduction, necropsy, or autopsia cadaverum) is a surgical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a corpse by dissection to determine the cause, mode and manner of death or to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present for research or educational purposes. (The term "necropsy" is generally reserved for non-human animals; see below). Autopsies are usually performed by a specialized medical doctor called a pathologist. In most cases, a medical examiner or coroner can determine cause of death and only a small portion of deaths require an autopsy.


A coroner is a government official who is empowered to conduct or order an inquest into the manner or cause of death, and to investigate or confirm the identity of an unknown person who has been found dead within the coroner's jurisdiction.

In medieval times, English coroners were Crown officials who held financial powers and conducted some judicial investigations in order to counterbalance the power of sheriffs.

The word coroner derives from the same source as the word crown, and it is believed to denote an officer of the Crown.

Death certificate

The phrase death certificate can refer either to a document issued by a medical practitioner certifying the deceased state of a person or, popularly, to a document issued by a person such as a registrar of vital statistics that declares the date, location and cause of a person's death as later entered in an official register of deaths.

Death from laughter

Death from laughter is a rare form of death, usually resulting from cardiac arrest or asphyxiation, caused by a fit of laughter. Instances of death by laughter have been recorded from the times of ancient Greece to the modern day.


Injury, also known as physical trauma, is damage to the body caused by external force. This may be caused by accidents, falls, hits, weapons, and other causes. Major trauma is injury that has the potential to cause prolonged disability or death.

In 2013, 4.8 million people world-wide died from injuries, up from 4.3 million in 1990. More than 30% of these deaths were transport-related injuries. In 2013, 367,000 children under the age of five died from injuries, down from 766,000 in 1990. Injuries are the cause of 9% of all deaths, and are the sixth-leading cause of death in the world.

List of Presidents of the United States who died in office

Since the office was established in 1789, 45 persons have served as President of the United States. Of these, eight presidents have died in office: four were assassinated and four died of natural causes; on each occasion, the Vice President has succeeded to the presidency. This practice is defined by Section One of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1967 (which superseded and augmented Article II, Section 1, Clause 6).The first incumbent U.S. president to die was William Henry Harrison, on April 4, 1841, only one month after Inauguration Day. He died from complications of what at the time was believed to be pneumonia. The second president to die in office, Zachary Taylor, died on July 9, 1850 from acute gastroenteritis. Abraham Lincoln was the first president to be assassinated. He was shot by John Wilkes Booth on the night of April 14, 1865 and died the following morning. Sixteen years later, on July 2, 1881, James A. Garfield was shot by Charles J. Guiteau, surviving for over two months before dying on September 19, 1881.Re-elected to a second term in November 1900, William McKinley died eight days after being shot twice by Leon Czolgosz on September 6, 1901. Next, Warren G. Harding suffered a heart attack, and died on August 2, 1923. On April 12, 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt (who had just begun his fourth term in office) collapsed and died as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage. The most recent president to die in office was John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald with two rifle shots on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.

List of causes of death by rate

The following is a list of the causes of human deaths worldwide for the year 2002, arranged by their associated mortality rates. There were 57,029,000 deaths tabulated for that year. Some causes listed include deaths also included in more specific subordinate causes (as indicated by the "Group" column), and some causes are omitted, so the percentages do not sum to 100. According to the World Health Organization, about 58 million people died in 2005, using the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 52.77 million people died in 2010.

List of hazing deaths in the Philippines

This is a list of hazing deaths in the Philippines. This is not an exhaustive list. Inclusion in this list requires that the incident was described by the media as a hazing-related death. Majority of deaths in this list include but is not limited to cases that involve fraternities.

The first reported hazing death in the Philippines was that of Gonzalo Mariano Albert, a University of the Philippines Diliman student and a Upsilon Sigma Phi neophyte. He died in 1954.

The death of Leonardo Villa in 1991 led to the passage of the Anti-Hazing Act of 1995.

Lists of people by cause of death

This is an index of lists of people by cause of death, in alphabetical order of cause.

List of fatalities from aviation accidents

List of deaths through alcohol

List of deaths from anorexia nervosa

List of people who were beheaded

List of choking deaths

List of professional cyclists who died during a race

List of drowning victims

List of deaths from drug overdose and intoxication

List of people killed in duels

List of deaths from legal euthanasia and assisted suicide

List of people executed by lethal injection

List of people who were executed

List of hazing deaths in the United States

List of horse accidents (deaths and serious injuries)

List of inventors killed by their own inventions

List of marathon fatalities

List of deaths by motorcycle accident

List of deaths on eight-thousanders (mountains)

Lists of murders

List of pneumonia victims

List of poisonings

List of prison deaths

List of racing drivers who died in racing crashes

List of people who died in road accidents

List of skiing deaths

List of victims of fatal snake bites in the United States by decade

List of fatal shark attacks in the United States

List of fatal shark attacks in Australia

List of fatal shark attacks in South Africa

List of fatal alligator attacks in the United States

Space accidents and incidents

List of people who died of starvation

List of notable stunt accidents

List of suicides

List of television actors who died during production

List of tuberculosis victims

List of volcanic eruption deaths

List of unusual deaths

List of women who died in childbirth

Manner of death

In many legal jurisdictions, the manner of death is a determination, typically made by the coroner, medical examiner, police, or similar officials, and recorded as a vital statistic. Within the United States and the United Kingdom, a distinction is made between the cause of death (sometimes referred to as the "mechanism of death"), which is a specific disease or injury, versus manner of death, which is primarily a legal determination. Different categories are used in different jurisdictions, but manner of death determinations include everything from very broad categories like "natural" and "homicide" to specific manners like "traffic accident" or "attempted or self-induced abortion". In some cases an autopsy is performed, either due to general legal requirements, because the medical cause of death is uncertain, upon the request of family members or guardians, or because the circumstances of death were suspicious.

International Classification of Disease (ICD) codes can be used to record manner and cause of death in a systematic way that makes it easy to compile statistics and more feasible to compare events across jurisdictions.

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 51

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 51 (P. Oxy. 51) is a report by a public physician, written in Greek. The manuscript was written on papyrus in the form of a sheet. It was discovered by Grenfell and Hunt in 1897 in Oxyrhynchus. The document was written on 31 August 173. It is housed in the Edinburgh University Library. The text was published by Grenfell and Hunt in 1898.The report was addressed to Claudianus, the strategus of the nome. It describes the cause of death of a man named Hierax, who had been found hanged by a noose. The measurements of the fragment are 14 by 72 mm. The text was written in a very cursive sloping hand.

Post-mortem chemistry

Post-mortem chemistry, also called necrochemistry or death chemistry, is a subdiscipline of chemistry in which the chemical structures, reactions, processes and parameters of a dead organism is investigated. Post-mortem chemistry plays a significant role in forensic pathology. Biochemical analyses of vitreous humor, cerebrospinal fluid, blood and urine is important in determining the cause of death or in elucidating forensic cases.

Preventable causes of death

The World Health Organization has traditionally classified death according to the primary type of disease or injury. However, causes of death may also be classified in terms of preventable risk factors—such as smoking, unhealthy diet, sexual behavior, and reckless driving—which contribute to a number of different diseases. Such risk factors are usually not recorded directly on death certificates, although they are acknowledged in medical reports.


Putrefaction is the fifth stage of death, following pallor mortis, algor mortis, rigor mortis, and livor mortis. This process references the breaking down of a body of a human or animal post-mortem (meaning after death). In broad terms, it can be viewed as the decomposition of proteins, and the eventual breakdown of the cohesiveness between tissues, and the liquefaction of most organs. This is caused by the decomposition of organic matter by bacterial or fungal digestion, which causes the release of gases that infiltrate the body's tissues, and leads to the deterioration of the tissues and organs.

The approximate time it takes putrefaction to occur is dependent on various factors. Internal factors that affect the rate of putrefaction include the age at which death has occurred, the overall structure and condition of the body, the cause of death, and external injuries arising before or after death. External factors include environmental temperature, moisture and air exposure, clothing, burial factors, and light exposure.

The first signs of putrefaction are signified by a greenish discoloration on the outside of the skin on the abdominal wall corresponding to where the large intestine begins, as well as under the surface of the liver.

Certain substances, such as carbolic acid, arsenic, strychnine, and zinc chloride, can be used to delay the process of putrefaction in various ways based on their chemical make up.

Body farms are facilities which study the process of human decomposition as well as how environmental factors affect the rate of putrefaction.

Smoke inhalation

Smoke inhalation is the primary cause of death for victims of fires. The inhalation or exposure to hot gaseous products of combustion can cause serious respiratory complications.Some 50–80% of fire deaths are the result of smoke inhalation injuries, including burns to the respiratory system. The hot smoke injures or kills by a combination of thermal damage, poisoning and pulmonary irritation and swelling, caused by carbon monoxide, cyanide and other combustion products.

Suicide in the United States

Suicide is a major national public health issue in the United States. In 2016, there were 44,965 recorded suicides, up from 42,773 in 2014, according to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). On average, adjusted for age, the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24% between 1999 and 2014, from 10.5 to 13.0 suicides per 100,000 people, the highest rate recorded in 28 years. Due to the stigma surrounding suicide, it is suspected that suicide generally is underreported. In April 2016, the CDC released data showing that the suicide rate in the United States had hit a 30-year high, and later in June 2018, released further data showing that the rate has continued to increase and has increased in every U.S. state except Nevada since 1999. Surging death rates from suicide, drug overdoses and alcoholism, what researchers refer to as "deaths of despair", are largely responsible for the decline of life expectancy in the U.S.In 2015, suicide was the seventh leading cause of death for males and the 14th leading cause of death for females. Additionally, it was the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 34 and the third leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 and 14. From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans aged 35 to 64 increased nearly 30 percent. The largest increases were among women aged 60 to 64, with rates rising 60 percent, then men in their fifties, with rates rising nearly 50 percent. In 2008, it was observed that U.S. suicide rates, particularly among middle-aged white women, had increased, although the causes were unclear.The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reported that in 2016 suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., imposing a cost of $69 billion to the US annually. Other statistics reported are:

The annual age-adjusted suicide rate is 13.42 per 100,000 individuals.

Men die by suicide 3.53x more often than women.

On average, there are 123 suicides per day.

White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016.

A firearm is used in almost 50% of all suicides.

The rate of suicide is highest in middle age—white men in particular.The U.S. government seeks to prevent suicides through its National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, a collaborative effort of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Health Resources and Services Administration, and Indian Health Service. Their plan consists of eleven goals aimed at preventing suicides. Older adults are disproportionately likely to commit suicide. Some U.S. jurisdictions have laws against suicide or against assisting suicide. In recent years, there has been increased interest in rethinking these laws. These policies focus on the recovery of the individual through the treatment of the mental disease. The aim is to assure the wellness and the health of the person affected as well as make sure that they recover and take advantage of their all potential.Suicide has been associated with tough economic conditions, including unemployment rate.There are significant variations in the suicide rates of the different states, ranging from 28.24 per 100,000 people in Wyoming to 7.81 per 100,000 people in New York.Approximately half of suicides are committed using a firearm, accounting for two-thirds of all firearm deaths. Firearms were used in 56.9% of suicides among males in 2016, making it the most commonly used method by them.

The Political Graveyard

The Political Graveyard is a website and database that catalogues information on more than 277,000 American political figures and political families, along with other information.

In medicine
After death

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