To determine the factors associated with deaths from asthma we surveyed retrospectively all the death certificates issued in two regions of Finland (the province of Oulu and the province of Turku and Pori) over a ten-year period in which asthma had been given as the main cause of death. We then examined patients' records to check whether asthma was the main cause of death. A total of 156 deaths could be ascribed to asthma, 87 in patients under 65 at death and 69 over 65. More deaths tended to occur during the weekends, and in the younger age group more occurred during the night than by day. Previous drug treatment was considered inadequate in 45% of the cases. The management and drug treatment of the final exacerbation phase were also often inadequate, at least among the younger victims, and the terminal attack was usually short, death often occurring in three hours or less. Despite the shortcomings in treatment, the number of deaths from asthma in the younger age group has fallen in the province of Oulu over the last 20 years.