Medical certification of death in South Africa – moving forward
CITATION: Burger, E. H., et al. 2015. Medical certification of death in South Africa – moving forward. South African Medical Journal, 105(1):27-30, doi:10.7196/SAMJ.8578.
The original publication is available at http://www.samj.org.za
Despite improvements to the Death Notification Form (DNF) used in South Africa (SA), the quality of cause-of-death information remains suboptimal. To address these inadequacies, the government ran a train-the-trainer programme on completion of the DNF, targeting doctors in public sector hospitals. Training materials were developed and workshops were held in all provinces. This article reflects on the lessons learnt from the training and highlights issues that need to be addressed to improve medical certification and cause-of-death data in SA. The DNF should be completed truthfully and accurately, and confidentiality of the information on the form should be maintained. The underlying cause of death should be entered on the lowest completed line in the cause-of-death section, and if appropriate, HIV should be entered here. Exclusion clauses for HIV in life insurance policies with Association of Savings and Investments South Africa companies were scrapped in 2005. Interactive workshops provide a good learning environment, but are logistically challenging. More use should be made of online training resources, particularly with continuing professional development accreditation and helpline support. In addition, training in the completion of the DNF should become part of the curriculum in all medical schools, and part of the orientation of interns and community service doctors in all facilities.