The first and most important document to be completed after a death occurs is the death certificate. Without this document, the care and final body disposition cannot take place. In addition to the importance in the burial process and returning a body to their own country, it is a registered legal document that indicates proof of death. The certificate must be signed by the attending physician who is family with the deceased medical history or who last treated him. The registration of the death certificate should take place before the burial of the deceased.
An Autopsy After A Death
Most hospitals will not release a body until the death certificate is signed. This could cause delays to the body going to the funeral home for viewing and burial preparation if it occurs on a weekend when the attending physician is not working. If the physician suspects foul play or if the death was sudden or unexpected, he may request an autopsy to determine cause of death. The family cannot overrule this decision should an autopsy be required and requested by the doctor, coroner or medical examiner. Even if the death was natural, a family may still decide to have an autopsy performed to verify the specific cause of death or gain more information about the medical history of the deceased for future reference of family health history.
Death Certificate Completion and Registration
Once the body is released, the funeral director will be given a copy of the death certificate. The funeral home then has the responsibility to to complete and register it. The remaining items to be completed is verifying personal information such as age, date of birth, principle residence, employer, burial information and other family details. After the funeral service, the death certificate is registered with the Registrar of the District in which the death occurred and a copy is forwarded to the State.
If Death Occurs At Home
If the death was unexpected and occurs at home, the funeral director may bring a blank death certificate to the family's home for the attending physician to complete during the removal of the remains to the funeral home. If the doctor is not in attendance at the pickup, he may give a verbal approval over the phone to the family and funeral director to remove the body. Regardless, the funeral director may go to the physician's home or office to get the certificate signed. This document needs to be signed before any preparation can begin.
Death Outside Country of Deceased
It does not matter where the deceased holds their citizenship, the death is registered in the country where the death occurred. If the death occurred on international waters, the death is registered there. When this happens, it is critical for the death certificate to be complete and registered in order to transfer the body to its designated country. Errors in the preparation of these legal documents can cause undue delays and hardship for families awaiting the return of their loved one.
Once registered, an application and Permit For Disposition of Human Remains is completed by the funeral director or person in charge of the body disposition. The permit is then taken with the body to the final resting place. There are many legal documents surrounding a death and the certificate. A trusted funeral director will be a valuable source in knowing which documents to complete and how and what is required so everything gets done in a timely fashion.