Registering of deaths
Under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1999 s 35 (1), a medical practitioner who:
- was responsible for a person’s medical care immediately before death, or
- who examines the body of a deceased person after death,
must, within 48 hours after the death, notify the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) of the death and of the cause of death in a form approved by the registrar.
This notice / form is called a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD). The medical practitioner need not give notice to the registrar if a coroner or a police officer is required to be notified of the death under the Coroners Act 1995 (i.e. if the death is reportable).
If a police officer or the coroner is notified of a death under the Act, then a coronial investigation begins. If, after medical examinations, the coroner determines that the death was in fact the result of natural causes, they will issue a letter notifying the senior next of kin of this and informing them that the coroner’s jurisdiction is at an end and the investigation will cease as soon as is practicable. This letter will also be sent to any other family members who request to be kept informed.
If the result of the medical examination is that the death continues to be in the category of reportable deaths, then the investigation continues. If the coroner is involved, then the registrar of BDM is notified of the death by the coroners’ office through a Registration of Death Statement, which is generated from the initial police report. The registrar will register the death and BDM can issue an interim death certificate, which will state that the coronial investigation is still ongoing.
Section 28(1)(e) of the Act requires coroners to find, if possible, the particulars needed to register the death under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1999 (Tas). At the time of publishing the Handbook, there is no legislation stating which particulars are required to register a death. The coroners are thus not legally required to record specific particulars. The practice of coroners is to only record the personal particulars which may be appropriate in the circumstances of each case. Other details about the deceased person, their family members and their life will often be recorded in the findings; however, they will not usually be stated separately in the section of the findings that deals with the registration of the death.
Some of the details that a coroner may record in their findings are:
- full name (including any previous legal names if known)
- last residential address
- place of birth
- date of birth (or if not known, age at date of death)
- sex (male / female / X)
- date of death
- place of death
- whether of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent (or both)
- if 18 years old or over - whether, immediately before death, the deceased person was married, in a significant relationship (Relationships Act 2003), divorced, widowed, in a de facto relationship or single
- full name (including, if applicable, the original surname) of current or former spouse
- if 15 years old or over - the usual occupation before death and whether or not the deceased person was a pensioner or was retired immediately before death
- the full names, sex and date of birth (or age) of any children (including any children who are deceased)
- and any such other information as the coroner deems reasonably necessary to provide an accurate and complete picture of that person’s death.
Under section 36 of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1999, the coroner must also provide the registrar with a copy of the certificate of burial issued for the deceased person as well as the cause of death, when they become available. Once this occurs, BDM will finalise the registration and can issue a standard Death Certificate.