MEDICAL CERTIFICATE OF THE CAUSE OF DEATH
It is a statuary responsibility of a doctor to provide a cause of death for all people “to
the best of your knowledge and belief”.
A doctor who looked after the child should issue the certificate. It is needed by the
parents to register the death before funeral arrangements can be made.
If there is insufficient knowledge of the cause of death or the case is required by law
to be notified then the death must be referred to the Coroner for consideration. He or
she may order a post mortem examination under these circumstances. This situation
has to be explained carefully and sensitively to the parents.
If a Coroner’s post mortem examination is performed, the death certificate is issued
by the Coroner’s office not the doctor. This is then sent to the Registrar’s office and
the parents can then register the death.
There are two types of Medical Certificate of Death:
One for babies born alive but dying up to 28 days from birth (Yellow Cover).
Any death after the 28th day of birth (Brown Cover).
General Practitioners will have their own supply.
The Bereavement Centre also keeps a supply of both books.
Special printed envelopes are provided for the certificate.
A tear off sheet is attached to the certificate to give to the person registering the
death. This slip explains the responsibilities of the informant.
The parents should be informed of what is written on the death certificate to avoid
any difficulties when they go the Registrar’s office. They may need to be warned that
these details may be altered following the results of a hospital post mortem.
It is important to check that the details on the Medical Certificate of Death are fully
completed, accurate and legible otherwise delays in registering the death may occur.
Printing the doctor’s name on the Medical Certificate of Death aids the Registrar to
read the signature. The Registrar will not accept any certificate with ambiguous
statements, illegible writing or incorrectly/incompletely filled in. If an infectious
disease has been involved, the organism must be stated. If this is not done, the
death cannot be registered. In this case the Registrar will ask the relative to return to
the hospital for the doctor to adjust the document. As this considerably increases
stress and distress to family this situation must be avoided.
The medical certificate of death is a legal document. If a certificate is completed at
night or over the weekend and is not given to be family it should be kept in a locked
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Where possible the death certificate should be checked by staff in the Bereavement
Centre before being given to the family – as this will hopefully prevent any delays
when the family go to register their child’s death
1. The doctor completing the certificate must write clearly
2. When signing the certificate the doctor must also print their name
3. All names are required to be written in full – initials are not acceptable
4. No abbreviations of any description are to be used
5. A proper diagnosis must be recorded and not just a system of disease
6. When recording the presence of a tumour it must be stated whether it is
malignant or benign.
7. Certificates can be written in common terms to provide less stress to relatives
More information re completing certificates can be found in the Medical
Certificate of Death Book
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