Role of the WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) sets the international guidelines for the format of the cause-of-death section on the Medical Certificates of Cause of Death as well as the rules and guidelines for clinical coders to select the underlying cause of death for cause-of-death statistics.

Definition of underlying cause of death

The ‘underlying cause of death’ is defined by WHO as:

‘the disease or injury which initiated the train of morbid events leading directly to death, or, the circumstances of the accident or violence which produced the fatal injury’.

Training for cause-of-death certification

WHO has some training resources on their website, including an Interactive Self Learning Tool for cause of death certification.

Choose the Cause of death certificate version. This tool provides some useful examples of how cause of death certificates might be completed, both correctly and incorrectly, then asks you to select the correct version.