The diagnosis of old age like that of Queen Elizabeth

The diagnosis of old age, like that of Queen Elizabeth II, divides the doctors

Posted on 10/02/2022 10:39 am

    (Source: Playback/YouTube)

(Source: Playback/YouTube)

The death certificate of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom named the monarch’s old age as the cause of death. At 96, she had no health problems. When a very old person dies with no apparent illness, do doctors need to determine a cause? Or is it acceptable to say that the person died of old age? With the everincreasing world population and advances in medicine, the debate is increasing worldwide.

Age is not listed in the International Code of Diseases (ICD). This is the World Health Organization (WHO) list used worldwide as a diagnostic tool, bringing together more than 17,000 conditions. At the beginning of the year there was a discussion about the inclusion of the term, but the understanding prevailed that old age is not a disease and therefore should not be included in the CID.

There is also an interpretation among some doctors that attributing death to age is as if the doctor had not examined in detail what caused the patient to die. The custom is that the cause is a condition on the list. Regardless, some countries accept the use of the term on death certificates, such as the United Kingdom and Japan.

In the UK it is possible to state on the death certificate that someone died of old age. This happened to the Queen and her husband Philip, who died in April 2021 at the age of 99. However, this annotation is only acceptable if the document was signed by a doctor who has been accompanying the patient for many years and there are no records of any illnesses. .

Among the Japanese, death from old age, which is also accepted on the death certificate, is already the third most common in the country. Second only to cancer and heart problems. However, there must be no other recognizable reason for using the term.


In Brazil, the prevailing understanding is that old age is not a disease. Therefore, it should not appear as a cause of death. Experts point out some problems with using “age” as a cause of death. Besides the interpretation that old age is a disease, the use of the term can create prejudices against older people. It can also disrupt statistics on infectious diseases (which often cause deaths in the elderly).

“It is not that there is a ban, but a recommendation so that this does not happen, that there are no vague causes on the death certificate,” explains geriatrician Elisa Franco de Assis Costa, professor at the Federal University of Goiás and member of the Technical Chamber for Geriatrics of the German Medical Association (CFM). “We need more precise information, for example to plan our healthcare system in order to generate important statistical data.”

But regardless of the official understanding, from a medical point of view, is it possible to die of old age? The issue is also controversial. Some doctors believe that old age alone is not the cause of death, but that another underlying condition is the cause of aging.

However, other experts think differently. They believe that as the body ages, it wears out and at a certain point begins to fail. For them, this death could be seen as old age.

“I wouldn’t use old age as a cause of death as if it were a disease,” says geriatrician Roberta França, a professor at the Universidade Cândido Mendes. “We are all born, grow, develop and die. It is the natural order of life. Nobody stays for seeds. There is a decline in function caused by age, organs lose capacity, but that doesn’t mean it’s disease, a pathological process.”


The Japanese have their own vision. “It’s not a disease, it’s something natural,” doctor Kazuhiro Nagao, a specialist in palliative care, told The Wall Street Journal last week. “It’s not a tragic ending. It’s the kind of death that’s considered ideal in Japan, part of our culture.”

For Brazilian medical specialist Veridiana do Nascimento Vieira Bronzon, a neurologist at Hospital Federal Cardoso Fontes and the Senior Network, the fact that Brazilians don’t accept “age” as the cause of death on the death certificate is also a cultural issue. “It’s a cultural theme in our country, shaped by gyms, the quest for the perfect body, facial harmonization, the cult of physical beauty, healthy aging,” he lists.

The information comes from the newspaper. The state of Sao Paulo.