Unexplained deaths increase in Denmark

Unexplained deaths increase in Denmark

The number of people dying in Denmark without a doctor’s explanation as to why is on the up, recent statistics have shown.

Of the 52,000 who died in 2012, the Statens Serum Institut (SSI) death registry received no death certificate from doctors for 2,500 of them. This figure is almost three times higher than it was in 2002 and eight times what it was when the registry was established in 1994.

Vendsyssel Hospital senior consultant and pathologist Ulrik Baandrup said that fewer deceased persons are autopsied than in the past, explaining that because of this many doctors have less autopsy experience and therefore can be left with less knowledge about the causes of death.

Baandrup said that even when someone dies of natural causes, the reason should be “pinpointed” so preventative measures can be developed.

University of Copenhagen Institute of Forensic Medicine researcher Jytte Banner said problems arise from the missing data. She noted that important information is lost, explaining that policy can be based on fatalities and if there is no information as to the causes of death for many people it becomes difficult to know how to address the situation.

Of the deaths that have been given no cause, three of four are people over the age of 75, but 122 people who died in 2012 without a cause being stated on their death certificate were under the age of 50.

Head of Denmark’s national health board, Sundhedsstyrelsen, Anne Mette Dons, described the missing information as a “major problem”. She said the death registry is needed for research so they require “accurate” information. She said she would be meeting with SSI officials with the aim of reversing the current trend.

A spokesperson for the SSI claimed one of the main reasons certificates have been “missing” was because they changed to electronic record keeping.