Mind your manners. Part II: General results from the National Association of Medical Examiners Manner of Death Questionnaire, 1995

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1997 Sep;18(3):224-7. doi: 10.1097/00000433-199709000-00002.


More than 700 physician medical examiner/coroners (ME/Cs) were surveyed to assess differences in manner of death classifications for typical but often controversial death scenarios: 198 physicians participated by choosing the manner of death (homicide, suicide, accident, natural, undetermined) for 23 such scenarios. Sixteen questions related to death certificate training, work location, and manner of death issues were also asked. The classification of manner of death by ME/Cs was highly variable. For some challenging death scenarios, majority agreement was lacking. Agreement was > or = 80% for only 11 of the 23 scenarios and was 100% for only 1. Manner of death classification method was not influenced by forensic pathology board certification status, by whether or not the physician actually completed death certificates, or by previous threats of lawsuits over manner of death classification. However, there were some differences by state. No textbook or individual was widely recognized as authoritative on manner of death issues. Few ME/Cs had formal death certification training in medical school or residency. The data lend credence to the practice of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of classifying manner of death for statistical purposes by using coding and classification rules and selection criteria rather than solely on the basis of the classification of manner chosen by ME/Cs. The data also indicate that caution is in order when one compares manner of death statistics of one ME/C with those of another Published guidelines and more uniform training are needed so that ME/Cs may become more consistent in their manner of death classifications. Further information is presented in Part I (history of manner of death classification) and in Part III (individual death scenarios and their analysis) companion articles in this issue of the Journal.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy
  • Cause of Death / trends*
  • Coroners and Medical Examiners / education
  • Coroners and Medical Examiners / organization & administration
  • Coroners and Medical Examiners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Death Certificates*
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Societies, Medical
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States