Korean J Leg Med.  2023 Nov;47(4):95-104. 10.7580/kjlm.2023.47.4.95.

Review of the Determination of the Cause and Manner of Death, in Deaths Related to Medical Care

  • 1Department of Forensic Medicine, Chonnam National University Medical School, Gwangju, Korea
  • 2Biomedical Research Institute, Chonnam National University Hospital, Gwangju, Korea
  • 3Department of Forensic Medicine, Jeonbuk National University Medical School, Jeonju, Korea
  • 4Research Institute of Forensic Science, Chonnam National University Medical School, Gwangju, Korea
  • 5Department of Forensic Medicine, Pusan National University School of Medicine, Yangsan, Korea


A death certificate (DC) can be considered a legal document and in terms of societal use, it is a public document. A DC includes facts such as the time and place of death, as well as judgments as to the cause and manner of death. Whether it pertains to facts or judgments, recording false information results in a false DC. According to the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) in the United States, it is acknowledged that there are varying opinions and approaches when it comes to classifying the manner of death. Therefore, it may require a final judgment, including input from the legal system. Generally, deaths resulting from complications that occur during drug administration or medical procedures are classified as natural deaths, while deaths due to unforeseen complications that occur suddenly, are categorized as accidental deaths. Applying this classification by NAME to the principles and legal precedents related to the duty of explanation and medical lowas of the Korean Medical Association, it is reasonable to classify deaths resulting from complication, during medical care, as natural death. However, if the death occurs due to injury or poisoning during medical care, it falls under external causes, according to the principle of following the primary cause. In conclusion, it is considered reasonable to classify complications that occur during medical treatment as natural deaths when they are foreseeable and within the accepted range of complications determined by medical standards at that the time.


Cause of death; Manner of death; Death certificate; Medical care; Malpractice
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