Hist Philos Life Sci 43 (2) 72 [2021-05-25; online 2021-05-25]
The World Health Organization has issued international instructions for certification and classification (coding) of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as cause of death. Central to these instructions is the selection of the underlying cause of death for a public health preventive purpose. This article focuses on two rules for this selection: (1) that a death due to COVID-19 should be counted independently of pre-existing conditions that are suspected of triggering a severe course of COVID-19 and (2) that COVID-19 should not be considered as due to anything else. The article argues that observance of the first rule may not always lead to an optimal selection from a preventive point of view and that in the future the ascertainment of an animal source of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) would make it possible to reconceptualize 'COVID-19' and create a zoonotic classification code by means of which a factor of a greater preventive value could be selected than what is currently possible.