Death, Cause Of

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Death, Cause Of

Cause of death is the generic term that refers to the conditions that lead to the death of a person or an animal. It is paramount to accurately determine the cause of death of an individual as part of crime investigation activities or when death is suspected to have been caused by a condition that has a strong genetic component. The determination of the cause of death is commonly the role of the death investigator, coroner , or forensic pathologist in collaboration with crime scene investigators and detectives. It is a complicated process that may require a lengthy period of time. In 2004 there were approximately 2.5 million deaths in the United States, including approximately 27,000 infants less than one year old. Autopsies to determine the precise cause of death were conducted in only about 10% of this group who died.

From a forensic perspective, there are four main categories of causes of death: homicide, suicide, accidental, and natural. Often, it is important to determine the cause of death for judicial reasons. If a homicide occurred, the perpetrator is ideally swiftly identified, arrested, and prosecuted. If a suicide took place, then documentation is necessary to alleviate the need for a criminal investigation. If an accident occurred, it is important to take preventive measures to ensure no further accidents will occur and to determine any legal repercussions. In some instances, a criminal will try to cover a homicide by making it looking like a suicide, but the reverse situation can also occur.

Homicide deaths include all the deaths that were deliberately carried out by an individual, or were due to an individual's negligent behavior. The number of homicides varies greatly from one country to another and from one region to another. In rural locations, homicide rates are usually lower, while in large cities, more homicides are likely to occur. In the United States, homicide represents slightly less than one percent of the total number of deaths. In 2003, the Federal Bureau of Investigation recorded 16,503 homicides in United States, which corresponds to 5.7 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Homicide deaths are further classified as caused by a particular condition such as by firearms , blunt injuries, sharp injuries, asphyxia, drowning, poisoning, or fire.

Suicide deaths include all deaths that were carried out by the deceased. Men are four times more likely to die from suicide than women. However, women are more likely to attempt suicide. The number of suicides also varies greatly from one country to another. In the United States, the rate of suicide is approximately double that of homicides, or 30,000 per year.

There are approximately 100,000 accidental deaths per year in the United States, which represents about 4% of the total number of deaths. Almost half of all accidental deaths are motor vehicle accident related.

Natural causes account for most of the deaths in the United States, accounting for approximately 90% of all deaths.

see also Crime scene investigation; Crime scene staging; Autopsy.