Why 'Covid-19' is written on death certificates in spite of other ailments

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There is confusion surrounding cause of death on death certificates for people suspected to have died from Covid-19.
There is confusion surrounding cause of death on death certificates for people suspected to have died from Covid-19.
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  • Many people have questioned why the cause of death of a loved one is registered as Covid-19 on death certificates, even if they clearly died of another cause. 
  • Some people have suggested the figures are being skewed because Covid-19 is written down instead of other ailments such as kidney disease.
  • The Western Cape Department of Health said dying of the virus was regarded as a "natural" cause and so an autopsy was not required to establish other causes. 
  • However, in a meeting on Wednesday, the government expanded on the wording regarding the deaths of people who also test positive for the virus.


The Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) is recommending making a distinction between patients who have died as having Covid-19 present, Covid-19-related, or Covid-19 caused, as debate over why no other cause of death is registered on death certificates of people who die with other serious conditions besides the virus. 

"So, now we can relook at how many of the deaths are associated with, but not directly caused by Covid-19," said Dr Keith Cloete, the head of the Department of Health in the Western Cape.

He added Covid-19 had been declared a "natural cause of death", as opposed to unnatural deaths like a trauma. 

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Cloete said with a natural death an autopsy was not indicated, so they do not have to find other reasons for the death. 

He added with an "unexplained death", a sample was analysed, and if it was positive for Covid-19, then that too was recorded as a Covid-19 death.

Cloete said of the five people aged 19 and younger whom the department had recorded as Covid-19 deaths, each one showed a clear indication the death was either a complication of something else, or a complicated comorbidity. 

There were 1 787 children with Covid-19 in Western Cape out of around 34 000 cases.

He added of those, 140 were hospitalised, saying these cases had nothing to do with the return to school.

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