When a death occurs, a physician or medical examiner must fill out a death certificate. In order to properly complete this document, they must determine three things: the cause, the mechanism, and the manner of death. There is often confusion about which is which. The cause of death is the disease or injury that produces the physiological disruption inside the body resulting in death, for example, a gunshot wound to the chest. The mechanism of death is the physiological derangement that results in the death. An example of a mechanism of death due to the gunshot wound described above is exsanguination (extreme blood loss). Last but not least, the manner of death is how the death came about.
Manner of death can be classified in six ways:
A natural death occurs as a result of aging, illness, or disease. An accidental death occurs when an injury or poisoning causes death, but it is unintentional. In this case, there can be no evidence supporting the idea that the poisoning or injury occurred with an intent to harm or cause death. A suicide results from an injury or poisoning occurring from a deliberate, self-inflicted act committed to harm or cause death to oneself. A homicide occurs when death is caused by another person. Undetermined is used as a classification when the information pointing toward one manner of death is no more compelling than any others. A pending death is one that is waiting on more evidence or analysis before the examiner can make a determination.
These characteristics of deaths are helpful for various reasons. The families of the deceased will have peace of mind if they know exactly what caused their loved one’s death. Insurance claims may not be accepted if the manner of death was a suicide. Also, many legal proceedings focus their attention to these characteristics during the trial and prosecution of murderers. This information is necessary to compile statistics for monitoring health and crime in the population. As you can see, characteristics of death are very important details to be aware of under several different circumstances.