Death Certificate
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Death Certificate
Eddie August Schneider's (1911-1940) death certificate, issued in New York.

The phrase death certificate can refer either to a legal document issued by a medical practitioner and signed by a doctor which states the time, month, hour, cause, minute, year, and day of a person's death or of a person's or, popularly, to a document issued by a person such as a registrar of vital statistics that declares the date, location and cause of a person's death as later entered in an official register of deaths.

Nature of a certificate

Death Certificate Rev. 1945 issued on April 5, 1948

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.[1]

A full explanation of the cause of death includes any other diseases and disorders the person had at the time of death, even though they did not directly cause the death.[2]

Public documents

In most of the United States, death certificates are considered public domain documents and can therefore be obtained for any individual regardless of the requester's relationship to the deceased. Other jurisdictions take a different view, and restrict the issue of certificates. For example, in the State of New York, death certificates are only obtainable by close relatives, including the spouse, parent, child or sibling of the deceased, and other persons who have a documented lawful right or claim, documented medical need, or a New York State Court Order.[3]


In Europe and North America, death records were kept by the local churches, along with baptism and marriage records. In what would become the United States, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was the first to have the secular courts keep these records, in 1639. By the end of the 19th century, European countries were pursuing centralized systems for recording deaths.[2]

In the United States, a standard model death certificate was developed around 1910.[2]

Specific jurisdictions


National registration began in 1855; registrations are rather more detailed.[4]


United States

A 2007 article in People magazine revealed that in the case of a stillbirth it is not standard practice to issue both a birth certificate and a death certificate. Most states instead issue a "certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth".[5]

See also


  1. ^ "Dead People Voting Throughout Florida". WFTV Orlando. VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. 30 Oct 2008. Archived from the original on 23 May 2011. Retrieved 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Altman, Lawrence K. (1 July 2013). "Making the Right Call, Even in Death". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013.
  3. ^ "Death Certificates". New York State Department of Health.
  4. ^ "Items Included in the Main Registers". General Register Office for Scotland. Archived from the original on 8 June 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  5. ^ "Welcome to MISSing Angels Bill". Retrieved 2018.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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