What does "death by natural causes" really mean?

Seems like a non descriptive term.

It means what it says: natural death. Not by accident, homicide, or suicide. Death by natural causes is almost always caused by disease, although some very old people may just pass away without any specific disease state being apparent.

Here’s a PDF file describing DNC statistics in King County, Washington.

There has to be more to it than that. If an (otherwise) healthy 18 year old dies of some disease, they don’t call that natural causes.

Yes “they” do.

I would suspect that the term ‘natural causes’ is an obit term that families may want used in place of ‘AIDS’ or something else they feel is personal. Do death certificates actually list ‘natural causes’?

In the UK at any rate, “natural causes” is the term used by the authorities when there is no evidence of suicide, accident, homicide, or any other thing which would warrant further investigation or charges. It would apply just as correctly to an 89 year old who passed away peacefully in her sleep as and 18 year old who died as the result of a hospital “super bug”, it just means what it says, the cause of death was natural, i.e. no hman interference, simple as that, no euphamism for AIDS, Syphyllis etc. although it would correctly apply to both. As for listing on death certificates, I could not be sure, but i think it would be listed if there had been a coroners enquiry, along with the medical cause of death (e.g. heart failure, disease etc.)

When my grandfather died, the cause of death was listed on his death certificate as “hypernatria” which was a fancy term for too much salt in his system which was another way of saying dehydration. What it really meant was that my grandfather was 102 years old and had decided it was time.

In the newspaper obituary, we said “natural causes.”

Generally, cancer or organ failure will bring on a cascade of other problems. Did a person die because congestive heart failure caused the heart to stop pumping, or did the associated pulmonary edema become so severe the person couldn’t get enough oxygen in the lungs? Either way, it’s natural causes.

I suppose that we should drag out the old chestnut about how “in the end, all forms of death can be attributed to heart failure…”

Sometimes people just say “natural causes” because the underlying cause of death is too complicated to explain.

Or sometimes people will just say “natural causes” if the deceased is relatively young so they don’t think that the person committed suicide or ODed or something like that.