Legendary author, Jerome David Salinger died yesterday of natural causes in his home in Cornish, New Hampshire were he lived in self-exile for decades. Mr. Salinger was 91. His most famous novel, The Catcher in the Rye, was required reading in high school English courses for generations of students.
Natural causes is a frequently given cause of death, particularly in the elderly, but what specifically does it mean? Specifying a cause of death is required by law in all states. Death certification provides public health statistics and prevents cover-ups of murder. A death certificate requires two pieces of information:
In practice, “natural causes” is a loosely-defined term used by coroners describing death when the cause of death was a naturally occurring disease process, or is not apparent given medical history or circumstances. As long as a physician familiar with the patient agrees to sign the death certificate, no autopsy in required.
At Mr. Salinger’s age, the most likely cause of death is heart failure. Even when a patient has no heart problems or other conditions, a body’s key cells and tissues can just wear down. It’s not so much a disease process, as a natural biological condition – the body just doesn’t last forever.