He checked 8,000 death certificates from the Sheffield area against detailed medical notes and case histories but found inaccuracies in about 2,000 of them.
Often doctors had listed the immediate trigger for a patient’s death, rather than the root cause.
Examples included patients with terminal cancer who were classed as dying from pneumonia as that was the condition which caused their final deterioration.
In about 40 per cent of those – or a tenth of the overall total – the cause of death given on the certificate was a different category of disease.
If we don\’t actually know what people are dying of then we can\’t really use our inadequate knowledge to prove that x, y or z (say, for example, booze, food etc) are killing people.
For example a patient who was bed-bound with severe dementia which led to pneumonia was classed as dying as a result of respiratory illness rather than a neurological condition.
Everyone\’s going to project their own personal prejudices onto this and mine is that, at a guess, we\’re under recording such \”neurological\” deaths and over recording some others.