INACCURATE DEATH CERTIFICATES CAN KILL YOU

Underreporting of Alzheimer’s Disease

deprives medical researchers of critical funding,

delaying the discovery of treatments and cures

!

!

Every
4
Seconds

globally, a new case of dementia is diagnosed

There are at least
50 million

Projected to 
DOUBLE
in 20 years

cases of dementia worldwide

Alzheimer's Disease isn't just memory loss

Alzheimer's kills people, every day

My Story, and Why I Am Doing This

My mother had severe Alzheimer’s Disease for over a decade, until she passed away in a nursing home, unable to move, speak, and even track objects with her eyes. Her medical records clearly documented this diagnosis throughout this entire time period.


A brain autopsy confirmed my mother’s diagnosis of advanced Alzheimer’s dementia, yet the term “Alzheimer’s” or “dementia” does not appear anywhere on her death certificate--NOT AS A CAUSE OF DEATH, BUT ALSO NOT EVEN AS AN ADDITIONAL CONDITION.

 

Instead, “cardiopulmonary arrest” was her stated cause of death. In addition, her death certificate incorrectly states that no autopsy had been performed. Three years later, the same incorrect cause of death was used on

my father’s death certificate.


FOR THIS REASON, I RESEARCHED THIS ISSUE AND DISCOVERED THAT
DEATH CERTIFICATES VERY COMMONLY CONTAIN ERRONEOUS CAUSES OF DEATH.

CARDIAC ARREST IS A SYMPTOM OF DEATH, NOT A CAUSE OF DEATH

THAT’S WHY CDC’s Standard Certificate of Death contains this clear instruction about causes of death:

“DO NOT enter terminal events such as cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, or ventricular fibrillation….”

Why  Care?

DEATH CERTIFICATE
INFORMATION DRIVES

$$$$


FUNDING

Records of death are used by governments worldwide to

  •  plan for health care

  • set priorities for health care funding

  • equitably fund medical research

 

In addition, death certificates can have significant impacts on

  • insurance and pension benefits

  • estate settlements

  • evidence in court cases

  • knowledge of family medical history

Yet

Studies show that up to

91%

OF DEATH CERTIFICATES CONTAIN MAJOR ERRORS THAT MAY IMPACT
NATIONAL MORTALITY STATISTICS

Impact

!

“Quality of mortality data is largely dependent on proper and thorough completion of death certificates by certifiers.”
-Centers for Disease Control

In order to be considered as a cause of death in CDC mortality data, Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia MUST be listed on death
certificates.

!

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE, THOUGH COMMON, IS GROSSLY
UNDERFUNDED IN TERMS OF MEDICAL RESEARCH

2012-2015 FISCAL YEAR FUNDING

CANCER ($5+ B)

HEART DISEASE ($3 B)

ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE ($600 MILLION)

Solutions

EDUCATION
All medical students, residents, licensed physicians, and other medical
professionals permitted to complete cause of death information must receive training on how to correctly complete death certificates; currently, this is not happening.


RECERTIFICATION EVERY THREE YEARS
Mandatory training/refresher course should be completed every few years, similar to requirements for narcotic management and infection control. Currently, there is no consistent, mandatory training for properly completing death certificates.

CAPACITY BUILDING
The capacity and expertise of staff in Bureau of Vital Statistics offices must be improved.

Excellent Free Resources

Online training module from CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. Learn More.

CDC Physicians’ Handbook on Medical Certification of Death. Learn More.

National Association of Medical Examiners free cause of death mobile app.  For Apple/ios.  For Google/Android.

Download a one-page infographic with this content to email or print

Medical and public health professionals: 
Download a detailed white paper with references