flowers on grave death certificateWhen the official death certificate doesn’t reflect the actual cause of death, many families are alarmed to see the paperwork. In some cases, it may seem the hospital is attempting a cover-up. In others, it may seem the patient was highly neglected, leading to the workers to be unaware of what they were going through in their final moments. However, the reasoning behind this type of mistake could be much less ominous.

The person who fills out the death certificate is not the hospital worker who was there for the last moments. This means the worker that does the paperwork may have never met the person while they were still alive. The informant could be a nurse that was on the night of the passing that did minimal work with the deceased. Even further, these workers are subject to human fallibility.

Even the date and time of the death can be inaccurate simply due to typing in the wrong numbers. For instance, there have been cases where the year and day of the month were swapping, giving a very imprecise time of death.

Why is a Death Certificate Necessary?

A death certificate is important because it is the only legal proof that someone has passed away. It’s used by the State to stop social security payments and other benefits and helps families sort out affairs after their loved one is gone.

Who is the Death Certificate Signed By?

Despite most people’s assumption that all death certificates are signed by a coroner or medical examiner, they only account for 20% of the signatures. Others that may sign a death certificate include primary physicians, attending or non-attending physicians, nurse practitioners and forensic pathologists. This can also vary from state-to-state with justices of peace able to sign in some cases. On average, a death must be reported to the local health departments within 72 hours and to the state within five to seven days of the death.

What are the Important Aspects of Death Certificates?

The cause of death is the most important aspect of this document. Unfortunately, it is also the most prone to error. The certifier is required to put the most immediate cause of death, including the conditions that led up to the death. This means someone who had cancer and the treatments led to cardiac arrest will have cardiac arrest listed as the cause. If you don’t agree with the cause of death, it’s important to have the information corrected.

How Do I Correct a Death Certificate?

Getting information on a death certificate is a process that can take months. The information is required by law to be reported to the mortality division at the CDC. The process can even take years or go unrecorded. If you need to have a death certificate corrected, contact our team at Bochetto & Lentz today. We understand the importance of accuracy in these documents and will advocate on your behalf during these trying times.