(Received 11 January 1973; accepted 19 March 1972)
Published Online: October
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Death certificates provide one of the most useful sources of information for epidemiologists concerned with the incidence and prevalence of a variety of diseases. As with other sources of official statistics, however, there are numerous problems of interpretation. Indeed, it has been claimed by some that official statistics tell us more about the producers of such statistics than about the reality they are presumed to describe . Arrest rates, for instance, tell us at least as much about the police as about those arrested . Suicide rates tell us as much about the coroner or medical examiner system as about those committing suicide . Changing patterns of respiratory deaths are more revealing of changing diagnostic and coding practices than of the changing incidence of a variety of disease entities .
Medical Examiner, Monroe County, New York and clinical assistant professor of Pathology and of Psychiatry, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York
Assistant professor of Preventive Medicine and Community Health and of Sociology, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York
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