Dy­ing of ‘Old Age’

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - WRITE IN - Antony Marr, by email

Read­ing through your lat­est is­sue I no­ticed my AGRA col­league, Emma Jolly’s, men­tion of ‘Old Age’ as a cause of death be­ing used “well into the 20th cen­tury”.

I have worked as a reg­is­trar of births, mar­riages and deaths, as well as a pro­fes­sional ge­neal­o­gist – the use of ‘Old Age’ as a cause of death is still valid, and is reg­u­larly used by doc­tors. There is a

re­quire­ment that the per­son must have been at least 80 years old (it used to be 70 years, but was raised in line with grow­ing life ex­pectancy some years ago). It may ap­pear as a pri­mary cause with other con­tribut­ing fac­tors, but can of­ten be the sin­gle cause listed, es­pe­cially where the per­son is of very great age.

It was ex­plained to me in my train­ing as a reg­is­trar that doc­tors will tend to use it as a gen­eral cause when the per­son is very el­derly and may have a num­ber of med­i­cal con­di­tions be­ing treated, any of which could have been the pri­mary cause of death, or where it may have been a com­bi­na­tion of their con­di­tions. It spares the fam­ily the dis­tress of wait­ing for a post-mortem to es­tab­lish a spe­cific cause (which of­ten isn’t al­ways pos­si­ble in such cases any­way).

I hope that is of in­ter­est.

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