The manner of death is the way to categorize death as per the U.S Federal Department of Health and Human Services. The classifications include natural, accident, suicide, homicide, and undermined.
It is only medical examiners and coroners who may use all the manners of death. All other certifiers must be used naturally or refer the death to the medical examiner. The manner of death is determined by the medical examiner. Let’s look at the manners of death in detail.
Natural death is defined as death caused by the aging process or a disease. The manner of death is not considered as natural if the cause of the natural death is hastened by an injury like drowning in a bathtub or a fall.
When the death certificate says a person’s death was natural, it is technically ruling out the involvement of other external causes. Death certificates almost always include more details about specifically how the body failed, such as heart disease, kidney failure, even if it is the best guest of the coroner or medical examiner.
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Accidental death is an unnatural death that is caused by accidents such as a slip and a fall, traffic collision, or accidental poisoning. Nonetheless, a person responsible for the accidental death of another through negligence may still be criminally liable for manslaughter or civilly liable for wrongful death.
Accidental death can still be considered as a homicide or suicide if a person was the unintentional cause. Traffic-related fatalities involving vehicles used for transportation on any public road are classified as accidents. There are also industrial deaths as a result of accidents at the place of work.
Suicide is defined for medical examiner certification purposes as death caused as a result of self-inflicted injury with evidence of intention to die. For a death to be established as suicide, there needs to be evidence of intent, including an explicit expression like a suicide note, verbal threat, previous attempts, or an act constituting implicit intention.
An example of suicide would be a self-inflicted contact or close-range gunshot wound on the head, chest, or abdomen that would be seen as having a high possibility of lethality.
Homicide death is another manner of death that is defined as the causing of death of a person by another. Homicide is a general term and may include a criminal act of murder or a non-criminal act of omission.
Some homicides are considered justifiable, such as killing of a person to prevent the commission of a serious felony or to aid a representative of the law. Also, note that homicide and murder are not the same. Not all homicides are murders, and not all murders are homicides.
The manner of death can also be considered as undermined if there is not sufficient evidence to reach a firm conclusion. For instance, the discovery of a partial human skeleton indicates a death but might not provide enough evidence to establish the cause. Undermined is listed as the manner of death classification in only a small number of cases annually.
There is simply not enough information to determine the circumstances surrounding the death. An undermined manner of death is assigned to cases of unnatural death when a clear preponderance of evidence to support the specific manner is not available.