Sudden unexpected death of an individual with epilepsy can pose a challenge to death investigators, as most deaths are unwitnessed, and the individual is commonly found dead in bed. Anatomic findings (eg, tongue/lip bite) are commonly absent and of varying specificity, thereby limiting the evidence to implicate epilepsy as a cause of or contributor to death. Thus it is likely that death certificates significantly underrepresent the true number of deaths in which epilepsy was a factor.
To address this, members of the National Association of Medical Examiners, North American SUDEP Registry, Epilepsy Foundation SUDEP Institute, American Epilepsy Society, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention constituted an expert panel to generate evidence-based recommendations for the practice of death investigation and autopsy, toxicological analysis, interpretation of autopsy and toxicology findings, and death certification to improve the precision of death certificate data available for public health surveillance of epilepsy-related deaths.
The recommendations provided in this paper are intended to assist medical examiners, coroners, and death investigators when a sudden unexpected death in a person with epilepsy is encountered.