Intended for healthcare professionals


Books of life, death—and what comes in between

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 27 May 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1448
  1. Richard Westcott, general practitioner
  1. South Molton, Devon

    I registered a death recently.

    I had to make an appointment, which seemed a rather formal business. The registrar sat behind a computer. She stood up and we introduced ourselves. It would take about half an hour, she explained.

    It was a surprisingly dignified occasion. She unfolded the death certificate from its familiar brown envelope, laid it out on her desk, and studied it carefully. I thought of the hundreds of certificates that I have quickly filled in and torn from that orange book in my desk drawer. We steadily worked our way through a series of questions on her computer. When that was done, she took out a fountain pen and recorded the details in her register, in black ink. Then she asked me how many copies I wanted.

    I had …

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