Benford's Law for Quality Assurance of Manner of Death Counts in Small and Large Databases

J Forensic Sci. 2017 Sep;62(5):1326-1331. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.13437. Epub 2017 Jun 20.


To assess if Benford's law, a mathematical law used for quality assurance in accounting, can be applied as a quality assurance measure for the manner of death determination. We examined a regional forensic pathology service's monthly manner of death counts (N = 2352) from 2011 to 2013, and provincial monthly and weekly death counts from 2009 to 2013 (N = 81,831). We tested whether each dataset's leading digit followed Benford's law via the chi-square test. For each database, we assessed whether number 1 was the most common leading digit. The manner of death counts first digit followed Benford's law in all the three datasets. Two of the three datasets had 1 as the most frequent leading digit. The manner of death data in this study showed qualities consistent with Benford's law. The law has potential as a quality assurance metric in the manner of death determination for both small and large databases.

Keywords: forensic science; health & safety; public health; qualitative research; quality in health care; statistics and research methods.

MeSH terms

  • Cause of Death*
  • Coroners and Medical Examiners
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Ontario
  • Probability*
  • Quality Control