City Health Information
December 2012 New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Vol. 31(6):41-49

Improving Cause of Death Reporting: Update 2012
  • Accurate and detailed cause of death reporting is critical for disease surveillance, public health research, and forensic investigations.
  • Cause of death reporting requires:
    • Review of the medical record
    • Identification of all conditions and events leading or contributing to the death
    • Ordering the conditions and events in a medically probable sequence



The medical provider must include additional information for infant deaths and for determining if a death was pregnancy-related, as well as information concerning autopsies, tobacco use, and whether OCME was consulted.

  • Infant deaths: If an infant is born alive and dies, both a birth certificate and a death certificate must be reported, regardless of viability, birth weight, gestational development, or duration of life. The name and address of the birthing facility are also required.

    In NYC, a live birth is defined as the "complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of conception, regardless of the duration of pregnancy, which after expulsion or extraction shows evidence of life, such as breathing, beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached" (6). If there is a spontaneous termination of pregnancy (ie, a stillbirth or miscarriage), you must file a Spontaneous Termination of Pregnancy (call 212-788-4575 for information).

  • Maternal deaths: Deaths of women who were pregnant at the time of their death or within 1 year of death are of particular interest to public health agencies. Consequently, you must determine whether a woman of childbearing age was recently pregnant (within 1 year of death) or pregnant when she died, and record pregnancy status, outcome, and date of pregnancy outcome on the death certificate in the section following the cause of death.