State and federal vital statistics offices often experience difficulty in obtaining accurate information on death certificates. The Registrar of Vital Statistics, summarizing a recent study of death certificates filed in one state, notes that half of all the certificates filed were found to be defective in regard to medical certification of cause of death.
The types of defects were classified into three categories: obsolete or unacceptable terminology, incomplete reporting and inaccurate reporting. Obsolete or unacceptable terminology includes diseases reported under nondescriptive names when descriptive names are available, vague and ambiguous terms such as senility, stillbirth and heart failure. Incomplete reporting means the omission of one or more of the following items: type of organism, anatomic site, duration of illness and underlying causes. About half of all defects classed as incomplete reporting are due to the omission of underlying causes of the immediate cause of death. Inaccurate reporting involves confusion between