Intended for healthcare professionals


Death certification reform in England

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 21 June 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2668

Re: Death certification reform in England

Improving accuracy and safety in death certification is an aim to be admired. But when introducing a requirement for second certification for burials, it is important not to cause undue delay.

In faiths such as Judaism and Islam, burial rather than cremation is the usual practice; and it is considered highly important for burial to take place as soon as possible after death, ideally on the same day. If second certification for burials is introduced, it is imperative to maintain sensitivity to members of these faiths, by ensuring availability of examiners at short notice, at all times.

This issue is highlighted by the recent debacle in North London surrounding the coroner's decision not to prioritise inquests on the basis of religious requirements. The High Court ruled this practice unlawful ( This episode caused significant distress to numerous families, including many of our patients. The proposed new system must avoid doing the same.

Competing interests: No competing interests

01 July 2018
David Spitzer
Dr Joseph Spitzer, Dr Talia Ezra, Dr Jacob Opat
The Surgery, 62 Cranwich Road, London N16 5JF