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July 24, 1996

Death Certificate Completion by Physicians-Reply

JAMA. 1996;276(4):280. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540040024015

In Reply.  —We agree with Dr Hoffer that any properly trained physician should be able to complete a death certificate correctly, but our data demonstrate that "proper training" should be formalized within the medical school curriculum. There are many opportunities in the medical school setting in which death certification should be emphasized. These include teaching rounds, clinical pathology conferences, and, as Hoffer suggests, autopsy. Whenever a death is discussed in any of these settings, the appropriate completion of the death certificate for the case should be part of the discussion.We also endorse Dr Hanzlick's suggestions for measures to improve the ability of physicians to certify deaths correctly. If various licensing boards and other examinations include technical questions about certification procedures, physicians in training would have to acquire the skills needed to complete the certificate properly by reading and absorbing the available literature. However, rather than targeting physicians who might be more