Verbal autopsy is a research method that helps determine probable causes of death in cases where there was no medical record or formal medical attention given.
In the case of the MDS, full-time, non-medical field workers were trained to record written narratives from families or other reliable informants in the local language describing the events that preceded the death. In addition, answers to standard questions about key symptoms were also recorded.
These records were then scanned and randomly sent to two of 130 trained physicians, who independently assigned a probable underlying cause of death to each case. In cases where the physicians did not agree on the cause of death, the conflicting physicians were given the other physician’s notes, and cases were anonymously reviewed again. Further disagreements were resolved by the opinion of a third, senior physician.