Medical Certificate of Death
(Please note that this document refers to the certification of death, not the pronouncement or confirmation of death, or the actual DEATH CERTIFICATE that is issued once the death is registered by Vital Statistics.) Normally, the next of kin does not receive this document.
Section 18 of the Vital Statistics Act requires that the certification of death is the legal responsibility of only a physician or a coroner.
A medical practitioner must complete and sign the Medical Certificate of Death within 48 hours of the death.
The completion of the certificate is the responsibility of the physician if the practitioner:
- attended the deceased during the deceased’s last illness;
- is able to certify the medical cause of death with reasonable accuracy; and
- has no reason to believe that the deceased died under circumstances which require an inquiry or inquest under the Coroners Act.
Section 9(1) of the Coroners Act requires that a death be reported to the Coroner if the physician has reason to believe that the patient died in the following circumstances:
- as a result of violence, misadventure, negligence, misconduct, malpractice or suicide,
- by unfair means,
- during pregnancy or following pregnancy in circumstances that might reasonably be attributable to pregnancy,
- suddenly and unexpectedly,
- from disease, sickness or unknown cause, for which the person was not treated by a medical practitioner,
- from any cause, other than disease, under circumstances that may require investigation, or
- in a correctional centre or penitentiary or a police prison or lockup.
Whenever an unexpected death occurs, the Coroner must be contacted. The body cannot be moved until the Coroner has conducted his/her initial review and determined whether an autopsy is required. In such circumstances, only the Coroner should sign the Medical Certificate of Death.
While physicians have a legal right to charge the estate for the completion of a Medical Certificate of Death, completion of the form cannot be withheld pending payment. Most physicians waive such a fee, assuming that the service is part of the closure of a professional relationship with the patient and their family.
Families or service providers receive a “Death Certificate” from the Director of Vital Statistics. This document is separate from the Medical Certificate of Death.
REGISTERING THE DEATH
In order to Register the death with the VITAL STATISTICS AGENCY, your funeral director will need to ask for some personal data to enter on the Registration of Death Form, including:
- Full name
- Date of Birth
- Personal Health Number
- Occupation (if retired, kind of work done most of working life)
- Spouse’s name (If wife list maiden name)
- Full name of father and father’s birthplace
- Full name of mother (maiden name) and mother’s birthplace.
- Method of Disposition (burial or cremation)
APPLYING FOR THE DEATH CERTIFICATE
In order to apply for a death certificate(s), the Medical Certification of Death form must be submitted with the Registation of Death form. Your funeral director will complete all this documentation on your behalf. Once the death has been registered, a permit of burial / cremation is issued along with the requested number of original death certificates. The Vital Statistics Agency currently charges $27.00 per original death certificate.
Deaths that have already been registered with the BC Vital Statistics Agency, can be ordered online by going the the BC Vitals Statistics Agency Website.