The Coronavirus Bill has modified the provisions in relation to death and stillbirth registration as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The amendments have been made to ensure the deceased are treated with dignity and respect as well as to protect public health.
The government has acknowledged that families who have lost loved ones to the Coronavirus may themselves be self isolating and the usual requirements for death registration may not be possible.
The present system of death certification requires the cause of death to be certified by a registered medical practitioner who attended the deceased in their last illness. Alternatively, the death must be reported to the coroner for the appropriate certificate to be provided (subject to any coroner investigation).
The medical certificate would then have to be given to the registrar in person by someone who is ‘qualified’ (usually a family member) to register the death and the medical certificate is used to record the cause of death on the death registration.
What the Bill has modified
On a temporary basis, the Bill:
- Amends the list of people who can register a death to include a funeral director who is responsible for the arrangement of the deceased’s funeral and is authorised by a relative to provide the information required by the registrar. The death certificate could be issued directly to the funeral director.
- Enables a death to be registered without an informant attending in person – this could be by telephone or other means as the registrar feels appropriate.
- Extends who can sign the medical cause of death certificate so that a doctor who has not treated the patient can sign the certificate in certain circumstances. This is to reflect the pressure the doctors may come under and to avoid any delay in issuing the necessary papers to allow the funeral to proceed.
- Extends the time limits and death circumstances which should be referred to the coroner.
- Enables documents such as the medical cause of death certificate, that normally have to be physically presented, to be transmitted electronically.
For more information about bereavement in isolation please visit Cruse Bereavement Care for help, support and advice.