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Coronavirus: changes to death registration procedures

Gateley Legal

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The COVID-19 virus has presented Parliament with many pieces of statute that need to be amended to help the country cope with the threat that it poses.

'Stand-by' emergency measures

Within the new legislation that has come out are new procedures for the registration of deaths, and ‘stand-by’ emergency measures that can be deployed by local authorities or the central government itself should the need arise.

The new Emergency Powers would allow local authorities to give direction on the transportation, storage and disposal of bodies. These could involve ordering the extension of opening times at crematorium and directing that certain vehicles be used for transportation purposes.

However, the overriding factor has been to ensure that the deceased are treated with respect and dignity as far as possible. This includes being alive, where it is known, to the deceased’s religion or their wishes as to the disposal of their body i.e. a cremation or a burial.

Parliament was well aware ( and it was much considered in the House of Lords) that there are certain religions where for instance cremation is not acceptable. The Government has stated that even if emergency powers were enacted regard would be had to the desirability of disposing of remains in accordance with wishes or beliefs.

One way of ensuring that such wishes or beliefs are known about is to ensure that your nearest and dearest know what you want. Further, those wishes can be placed into a will.

Registering a death without a signature

Parliament has also realised that with many self-isolating or working from home physically going to register a death is going to be an issue. They have therefore amended legislation so that death can be registered without a visit in person and without the signature of the person who is giving the notification.

They have also relaxed the requirements for who can sign to the cause of death, acknowledging that doctors will be working in unusual circumstances; and they have not made COVID-19 a notifiable death so a Coroner does not have to sit with a jury.

More information

For more information regarding the new death registration procedures, contact our expert listed below.

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