Completion of death certificates in the aftermath of a hurricane
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Completion of death certificates in the aftermath of a hurricane

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    Death certificates are used widely for many critical uses. For example, families use them to close out estates as well as to reach emotional closure about the loss of their relative. Information from death certificates is also the fundamental source for official mortality statistics which are used to support statements such as “The impact of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season and the resulting death, injury, destruction, and population displacement were unprecedented in U.S. history.” (CDC. MGuide: Hurricanes, accessed at and to more generally define the mortality scope and impact of particular events. Having more information about past events helps plan for future catastrophic storms.

    The medical examiner, coroner, or physician’s primary responsibility in certifying or completing the death certificate is to provide a medical opinion on cause of death, that is, an etiological description of the order, type, and association of events resulting in death. In reporting the cause of death, any disease, abnormality, injury, or poisoning believed to have adversely affected the decedent should be reported as specifically and precisely as possible. He or she may also complete other legal and demographic items on the death certificate although normally a funeral director would complete this other information.

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