Mind your manners. Part III: Individual scenario results and discussion of the National Association of Medical Examiners Manner of Death Questionnaire, 1995

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1997 Sep;18(3):228-45. doi: 10.1097/00000433-199709000-00003.


In 1995, a questionnaire was distributed to the > 700 physician medical examiner/coroners (ME/Cs) who are members of the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME, St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.). The questionnaire consisted of 23 death scenarios for which individual responders were asked to assign a manner of death (homicide, suicide, accident, natural, or undetermined); 198 questionnaires were completed and analyzed. The distribution of manner of death responses was tabulated. In addition, a nosologist from the National Center for Health Statistics was provided with a cause-of-death statement based on each scenario and was asked to assign an International Classification of Diseases (ICD) code for the underlying cause of death, from which a manner of death was inferred from the ICD code's literal text description. Overall, agreement on a given manner of death in a single scenario was > 90% in only 4 of 23 scenarios and > 70% in only 12 of 23 scenarios. However, in 21 scenarios, the most common response comprised a majority. The manner of death inferred from the ICD code that was assigned by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) matched the most common response of participants in 18 of the 23 scenarios. The questionnaire results show that there is substantial disagreement among experienced MEs concerning the manner of death classification that is preferred for selected types of death. Encouraging, however, is the fact that the manner of death coded for statistical purposes generally agreed with the most common classification of manner made by ME/Cs. Highlights from the discussion of each scenario that occurred during the NAME interim meeting (Nashville, Tennessee, February 1996) are also included. Other portions of the program including history of manner of death concepts and results of questions regarding responder training and characteristics are published separately in this issue of the Journal. Information derived from the questionnaire should be useful to those planning strategies to improve the consistency of manner of death classifications by ME/Cs.

MeSH terms

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