Cause of death

Understanding the results of the post mortem and cause of death.

When you receive the result of the post mortem examination it can be particularly devastating to read the cause of death and it can also create confusion if the cause appears to be different to what you believed.

The results are written by a pathologist and they have to record the cause very precisely. This precision, medical terminology and necessary brevity can be very stark and upsetting.

It may be helpful to know that post mortem results are always set out in a particular format, and that the same format is used on the final death certificate issued by the Register Office.

   1a The disease or condition immediately causing death
   1b The underlying cause of 1a 
   1c The underlying cause of 1b
   2 Any disease or condition that did not cause death but contributed in some way

It is not always necessary to fill in sections 1b, 1c or 2.

Without going into specific detail, in a drug or alcohol related death the actual cause may seem unexpected or at odds with what you believed had happened.

If you are finding it difficult to understand the post mortem results then your doctor or the coroner's office would be able to assist.

See also