A death certificate, sometimes medical certificate of the cause of death (MCCD), is a document issued by a government official such as a registrar of vital statistics that declares the date, location and cause of a person's death.
Before issuing a death certificate, the authorities usually require a certificate from a physician or coroner to validate the cause of death and the identity of the deceased. In cases where it is not completely clear that a person is dead (usually because their body is being sustained by life support), a neurologist is often called in to verify brain death and to fill out the appropriate documentation. The failure of a physician to immediately submit the required form to the government (to trigger issuance of the death certificate) is often both a crime and cause for loss of one's license to practice. This is because of past scandals in which dead people continued to receive public benefits or "voted" in elections.
Death certificates may also be issued pursuant to a court order or an executive order in the case of individuals who have been declared dead in absentia. Missing persons and victims of mass disasters (such as the sinking of the RMS Lusitania) may be issued death certificates in one of these manners.
In some jurisdictions, a police officer is allowed to sign a death certificate. This is usually when the cause of death seems obvious and no foul play is suspected, such as a home accident or SIDS. In such cases, an autopsy is rarely performed.
In the United States, certificates issued to the general public for deaths after 1990 may in some states be redacted to erase the specific cause of death (in cases where death was from natural causes) to comply with HIV confidentiality rules. In New York State, for instance, the cause of death on a general death certificate is only specified if death was accidental, homicide, suicide, or declared in absentia; all other deaths are only referred to as "natural". All states have provisions, however, whereby immediate family members, law enforcement agencies, and governmental authorities (such as occupational health and safety groups) are able to obtain death certificates containing the full cause of death, even in cases of natural death.
Stillbirth certificates can only be ordered by the mother or father of the deceased contacting the General Register Office by phone or letter. In the event of the parents both having died, a sibling can order the certificate if they can provide the dates of death for both parents.
Validation of death certificate diagnosis of out-of-hospital coronary heart disease deaths in Olmsted County, Minnesota
Jul 01, 2000; Objective: To evaluate the validity of death certificate diagnosis of out-of-hospital (OOH) coronary heart disease (CHD) and...