Errors in the certification of neonatal death

R. Hunt, P. Barr

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Objective: To examine the precision of the perinatal death certificate (PDC) and ascertain the possible sources of error in the certification of neonatal deaths. Methods: The 'Main' and 'Other' causes of death recorded on the PDC were obtained from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and compared with those from a clinicopathological summary (CPS) completed after all pending laboratory results and/or autopsy information were available. Results: There were 179 neonatal deaths during the 7 year period under review. The PDC and CPS main causes of death were concordant in 103 of 179 infants (58%) and discordant in the remaining 76 infants (42%). The PDC main cause of death was incorrectly classified in 61 of 76 infants (80%) with discordant findings and was incompletely classified in the remaining 15 infants (20%). The following discordancies were recorded for the 61 infants with an incorrect classification: (i) transposition of the 'Main' and 'Other' causes of death, resulting in a sequencing discordancy in 14 infants (23%); (ii) recording a non-pathological condition as the main cause of death in 40 infants (66%); and (iii) recording an incorrect pathological condition as the main cause of death in seven infants (11%). Eight of the 61 (13%) incorrect classifications and four of the 15 (27%) incomplete classifications were associated with laboratory and/or autopsy data being unavailable when the PDC was completed. Conclusions: The concordancy between the PDC and CPS would have increased from 58 to 91% if the 'Main' and 'Other' causes of death had been sequenced correctly, if the main cause of death had been ascribed to a pathological disease rather than a non-pathological condition and if corrective information from pending laboratory tests and/or autopsy examination had been made available to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-501
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Paediatrics and Child Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Autopsy
  • Death certification

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