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J Forensic Sci. 2017 Sep;62(5):1326-1331. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.13437. Epub 2017 Jun 20.

Benford's Law for Quality Assurance of Manner of Death Counts in Small and Large Databases.

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Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University Health Network, University of Toronto, 200 Elizabeth St, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Mathematics and Statistics, McMaster University, 1200 Main St W, Hamilton, ON, Canada.
Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario, 25 Morton Shulman Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Pathology & Molecular Medicine, McMaster University, 1200 Main St W, Hamilton, ON, Canada.


To assess if Benford's law, a mathematical law used for quality assurance in accounting, can be applied as a quality assurance measure for the manner of death determination. We examined a regional forensic pathology service's monthly manner of death counts (N = 2352) from 2011 to 2013, and provincial monthly and weekly death counts from 2009 to 2013 (N = 81,831). We tested whether each dataset's leading digit followed Benford's law via the chi-square test. For each database, we assessed whether number 1 was the most common leading digit. The manner of death counts first digit followed Benford's law in all the three datasets. Two of the three datasets had 1 as the most frequent leading digit. The manner of death data in this study showed qualities consistent with Benford's law. The law has potential as a quality assurance metric in the manner of death determination for both small and large databases.


forensic science; health & safety; public health; qualitative research; quality in health care; statistics and research methods

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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