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Death certificates are missing a necessary check box

LETTER — Posted Feb. 18, 2013

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Regarding “Death certificates present final medical complication” (Article, Jan. 21): As an emergency physician in the trenches for 25 years, I found that the information as presented in your article lacks a crucial dimension.

We are in an era where there is no tolerance or forgiveness for not knowing. This is sometimes called “fraud,” and filling out a death certificate when the person doing so does not know, by firsthand knowledge, the deceased’s comorbidities, would smack of fraud.

At least in my community, the last physician to touch the patient is designated to complete the death certificate. (It’s kind of like musical chairs.) This is often the emergency physician. (I have not seen a study, but it would be very easy for this to be done with an electronic database of death certificates matched against primary care physicians.) There is a simple solution: A check box noting that I am not in possession of this data and a line wherein I could tell the state whom to contact for this information.

This would markedly increase accuracy and, importantly, permit the family to see, on their loved one’s death certificate, the signature of a doctor who cared for the deceased.

Thomas Benzoni, DO, Sioux City, IowA

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