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Death Certificates

Volume 640: debated on Monday 15 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Health whether he will introduce legislation to make it compulsory for doctors to see the body of a patient after death, before issuing a death certificate.

I am not satisfied that sufficient grounds for legislation exist, but shall be glad to consider with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary any information bearing on this matter which my hon. Friend may wish to bring forward.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that at least one body out of four which is buried in this country is not inspected by a medical practitioner? Is this not an unfair burden, particularly in view of our ageing population, to place on the survivor of two elderly persons the responsibility for informing a medical practitioner that death has occurred? Surely this anomaly in the law should be eradicated. There should be no hardship on medical practitioners throughout the country inspecting bodies before a death certificate is issued.

In the great majority of the 25 per cent. of cases which my hon. Friend mentioned, death takes place in a hospital. A change in legislation here would be a substantial addition to the duties imposed on doctors, and my right hon. Friend and I am not satisfied on the present information available that this would be justified.