Unexplained deaths on the increase in Denmark

Doctors failing to explain cause of death in too many cases

Of the some 52,000 Danes who died in 2012, doctors failed to deliver a death certificate to the death registry at Statens Serum Institut (SSI) in 2,500 cases.

That number has nearly tripled since 2002 and increased eight-fold since the registry was created in 1994.

Ulrik Baandrup, senior consultant and pathologist at Vendsyssel Hospital, believes the reason is that fewer dead are autopsied than before.

“This gives doctors less experience with autopsies and that affects the knowledge we have about the causes of death,” Baandrup told DR Nyheder.

Baandrup said that even when a death occurs from natural causes, it is important to pinpoint the reason to help develop preventative measures.

Important data missing
Jytte Banner, a professor at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Copenhagen said that the missing data creates problems.

“A lot of important information is lost,” Banner told DR Nyheder. “Policy is often based on fatalities, and when large numbers of people die and there is no information as to why, it is hard to know what to address.”

Three out of four deaths with unknown causes occur in people who are over 75-years-old, but 122 Danes under 50-years-old died in 2012 without the attending doctors listing a cause of death.

Anne Mette Dons, the head of Sundhedsstyrelsen, the national board of health, said that the missing information is a major problem. She said that the death registry is used for research, so it is vital that the information is accurate.

READ MORE: Capital region to audit hospitals after fraud scandal

Dons said that she will be meeting with officials from SSI to reverse the trend of deaths being registered without a death certificate.

An SSI spokesperson said that switching to electronic record keeping was a major cause behind missing certificates.





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