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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 247-248

Death certificate and death intimation

Senior Legal Consultant, Legal Section, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Web Publication7-Aug-2017

Correspondence Address:
D Samuel Abraham
Christian Medical College, Ida Scudder Road, Vellore - 632 004, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cmi.cmi_62_17

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How to cite this article:
Abraham D S. Death certificate and death intimation. Curr Med Issues 2017;15:247-8

How to cite this URL:
Abraham D S. Death certificate and death intimation. Curr Med Issues [serial online] 2017 [cited 2023 Jun 9];15:247-8. Available from: https://www.cmijournal.org/text.asp?2017/15/3/247/212378

'Medicine and the Law' is a forum where questions from readers pertaining to legal issues they may face during the course of their medical practice are answered and discussed.

  Question Top

In a situation, when a person is brought to the emergency department in gasping condition, he/she is rushed for immediate resuscitation(where history, examination, and investigation have to be postponed). However, if the person dies within a few minutes, will it suffice for the doctor to issue a “Brought dead certificate?”(at the mission hospital, I am working, a death certificate is given to inpatients only.)

This is a very peculiar situation which rarely happens, i.e., when the patient is brought in your hospital life was there; however, before any treatment or protocol is started the patient dies.

Consider a similar situation that occurred earlier. A case was raised between two attendants/witnesses of a patient against the doctors who were present in the hospital. The attendants alleged that when they brought the patient to the hospital, the patient was alive, and the patient died of nonresuscitation only due to the gross negligence of the doctors. Whereas according to the doctors, there was no life in the body, and therefore, they have issued a “brought dead” certificate.

The issue to be decided before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission was, who was correct and who was wrong?

At that time, unexpectedly two junior doctors who attended the case produced a document before the commission, which recorded the events that took place during the incident. The document was a simple form which recorded the events that occurred carefully (details about the patient, condition at presentation, treatment given, response to treatment and advise to attendants). The court appreciated the doctors for producing the documents which were unbiased. On the other hand, the attendants of the patients were not able to produce any material to prove that there was life when they brought him to the hospital. The careful documentation by the doctors of what happened helped settle the case in favor of the doctors.

The situation described in the question is slightly different. The doctor mentioned that in the mission hospital where he is working, they give “death certificate” to inpatients.

As per the existing laws in India, especially The Registration of Birth and Death Act, 1969, medical professionals are expected to send an “intimation of death” to the nearby local body or registrar notified by the State Government. Adeath certificate cannot be issued by the medical professional. The “death intimation” to the local body is often misrepresented by lay persons as death certificate.

Therefore, doctors can issue death intimation to the local body such as Panchayat/Municipality and Corporation together with cause of death for all the inpatients who die in their hospital. Note: Death intimation to the local body cannot be issued by the doctors/hospitals without fully identifying the exact person who died.

  Legal Guidelines on Handling Death in a Hospital Top

With the background of all the above information, the following procedures are to be followed:

  1. If there is no life in the body when it was brought to your campus, you can very well give a “brought dead” certificate
  2. If there is a life in the body when he/she was brought to your campus in a very serious condition, you are duty bound to examine and record the incident including details about the patient, the clinical condition, the treatment given, and advice given to the attendants. The report may reveal in future reference that the condition of the person was very serious and the life was slowly ebbing from the body. You can retain the report for your use and issue death intimation to the local body
  3. In future, it is always better to get a copy of photo identity of the dead person before issuing the death intimation to the local body
  4. In case of death of an inpatient, always issue and send a death intimation to the local body and not issue death certificate as such
  5. A copy of the death intimation sent to the local body with proper signature may be given to the relatives of the patient to enable them to take the dead body from the hospital to their native place
  6. The death intimation can only be issued if the doctors very well know and vouchsafe the identity of the person
  7. In the same way, in a maternity ward, doctor can issue only intimation of birth to the local body and not birth certificate.

By Mr. D. Samuel Abraham, Sr. Legal Consultant, Christian Medical College, Vellore.

  Frequently Asked Questions Top

1. Is “death intimation” the same as “medical certificate for cause of death?” what are the details needed in the “death intimation” document (e.g., patient details, cause of death…) ?

No. The “death intimation” is not the same as “medical certificate for cause of death.”

In ordinary course of life, any person can give death intimation to the statutory bodies in an ordinary form signed by him (Form No.2–Intimation of death).

However, if the same death intimation is communicated from the hospital, an extra format is to be filed by the doctors of the hospital, which will be kept by the statutory body (Form No.4–Medical certificate of cause of death). Therefore, Form No.2 and Form 4 are to be submitted by the hospital in case of death of a patient in the hospital premises.

If any third person requires death certificate from the statutory body in future, only death certificate will be issued by the statutory body and cause of death will not be revealed as this is a subject of dispute to be decided by competent Court.

A model form which we use in Tamil Nadu is forwarded for your ready reference.

2. What is a death certificate and why is it needed?

A death certificate is a document issued by the government to the nearest relatives of the deceased, stating the date, and fact and cause of death. It is essential to register death to prove the time and date of death, to establish the fact of death for relieving the individual from social, legal, and official obligations, to enable settlement of property inheritance, and to authorize the family to collect insurance and other benefits.

  The Legal Framework Top

In India, it is mandatory under the law(as per the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969) to register every death with the concerned State/UT Government within 21days of its occurrence.[1] The Government accordingly has provided for a well-defined system for registration of death, with the Registrar General, India, at the center and the Chief Registrars in States, running through district registrars to the village and town registrars at the periphery.

3. How does one obtain a death certificate?

A death can be reported and registered by the head of the family, in case it occurs in a house; by the medical in charge if it occurs in a hospital; by the jail in charge if it occurs in a jail; and by the headman of the village or the in-charge of the local police station, in case, the body is found deserted in that area.[1]

To apply for a death certificate, you must first register the death. Death certificate is then issued after proper verification.

If a death is not registered within 21days of its occurrence, permission from the Registrar/Area Magistrate, along with the fee prescribed in case of late registration, is required.

The application form in which you are required to apply is usually available with the area's local body authorities or with the registrar who maintains the register of deaths. You might also need to submit proof of birth of the deceased, an affidavit specifying the date and time of death, a copy of the ration card, and the required fee in the form of court fee stamps.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Obtain Death Certificate. Available from: http://www.archive.india.gov.in/howdo/howdoi.php?service=2.[Last accessed on 2017Jul01].  Back to cited text no. 1


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