Evaluating the cause of death certification at an academic hospital in Cape Town, South Africa
Beatrice Nojilana, Medical Research Council of South Africa
Debbie Bradshaw, Medical Research Council of South Africa
Gavin Reagon, University of the Western Cape
Cause of death statistics are amongst the mostly widely used source of epidemiological, clinical and health investigations. However, its quality is greatly dependent on the doctor and his or her understanding of the guidelines for reporting underlying causes. Death certificates completed in an academic hospital in Cape Town during 2004 were reviewed for errors and codability according to International Statistical Classification of Diseases and related Health problems (ICD-10) principles. A total of 983 death certificates were evaluated in this cross-sectional descriptive study. Only 16 (1.6%) of the death certificates were correctly completed to the international standard. Almost half (45.4%) had at least one major error that could compromise the identification of the underlying cause of death. Further investigations are underway to assess the extent of misclassification of AIDS as a cause of death. However it is clear that training in completing death certificate is needed.