To determine the accuracy of death certification by hospital doctors, all certificates of deaths issued for one month in the General Hospital, Colombo were studied. Only 97 (38%) of the 253 certificates were correctly recorded according to the internationally accepted criteria. The immediate, antecedent and contributory causes of death were not written in the correct place in 75 (30%) certificates, while unacceptable causes of death were found in 49 (19%). Abbreviations had been written in 13 (5%) instances. Death certificates had been issued without informing the coroner in 14 (6%) cases, which was irregular. The need for accurate certification of death for disease surveillance, research and planning is stressed.