The Difference Between Natural and Unnatural Death

What’s the Difference Between Natural and Unnatural Death?

We’ve all heard the phrase, “they died of natural causes,” but most probably do not know what that phrase actually means. When someone dies of “old age” or as a result of a health condition or illness, his or her death is considered a natural death; however, if this is not the case, it will instead be categorized as an unnatural death. This includes accidents, homicides, suicides, violent deaths, falls, poisoning or overdoses (intentional and unintentional) and drowning.

What is Natural Death?

According to Aftermath, if death occurs unexpectedly or in unusual circumstances, the coroner is usually required to hold an inquest to determine the cause and manner of death. Simply put, natural death is one that occurs as a result of the aging process or disease. Most states recognize five different classifications of death:

  1. Natural death – occurs as a result of the aging process or disease.
  2. Homicidal death – refers to a person that is killed by one or more persons. The level of the homicide is legally defined as murder if the act was intentional and as manslaughter, if it was unintentional.
  3. Accidental death – defined as any death that occurs as the result of an accident. This type of death is only deemed accidental if it was not intended (suicide), expected, or foreseeable (illness). To find out more information about accidental death, click here.
  4. Suicidal death – refers to the act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally.
  5. Undetermined – The phrase “undetermined death” has some inherent ambiguity surrounding it. It is used to describe cases that either have little available information about the circumstances surrounding the death, or if known information conflicts with more than one manner of death. For example, if a person dies in a particular way, but it is not apparent (to the coroner performing the autopsy) whether it was a homicide or suicide, they will conclude it as an undetermined cause of death. Undetermined death is applied to a wide variety of situations, making it a little harder to concretely define.

What is Unnatural Death?

Deaths that are not categorized by natural causes are categorized as unnatural deaths.

The coroner might ask for a post-mortem to investigate how the person died. They can also ask for other reports or investigations to be done. Depending on the situation and the manner of the death, this part of the process can take a while.

The coroner will then look at all of the evidence. The coroner has a number of ways to formally review the evidence, including an inquest or on the papers.

Once the coroner has reviewed the evidence, he or she will issue a coroner’s finding that states who died and where, when and how they died. They will then send the finding to the person’s immediate family.

The Importance of Knowing the Difference

Knowing the difference between natural and unnatural death is important for a variety of reasons. For example, when you’re in the market for purchasing a house. You may want to find out if someone had died in the house you’re looking to live in to ensure it has been properly remediated.  

Attempting to clean up a trauma or unattended death scene without the adequate knowledge and personal protective gear can result in risks to health from virulent blood-borne diseases, including Hepatitis C and E.coli. Inadequate remediation may also lead to structural damage or the spread of mold or bacteria, which can occur when blood and biological material seeps into hidden places that ordinary cleaning products and procedures can’t reach.

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