Q:

Can the cause of death on a death certificate be changed?

A:

Quick Answer

The cause of death on a death certificate can be changed, states PBS. In fact, if the original cause of death is found to be incorrect, it is required by law that the death certificate be amended.

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Full Answer

Cause of death is determined by the coroner or medical examiner, referred to as the certifier by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Depending on circumstances surrounding a particular death, the specific cause of death may be difficult for the certifier to determine. Certifiers use their medical knowledge and training, decedent history and other factors to determine cause of death, sometimes leaving certifiers to provide their medical opinion for cause of death.

There may be occasions when new information proves the original cause of death to be incorrect. When a cause of death is found to be incorrect, the appropriate Department of Health should be notified so an amended death certificate can be issued. In the United States, since registration of vital records is usually handled by the individual states, the process for amending a death certificate may vary. Some states, such as Arizona, require a judicial ruling to amend the cause of death, while other states only require a statement from the medical examiner, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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