A briefing paper has been published in the House of Commons, entitled Managing The Deceased. The paper looks at how those unfortunate enough to fall victim to the Coronavirus will be dealt with.
Acknowledging that people will die as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has stated that it wants to ensure the deceased are treated with the utmost respect and dignity and that the current procedures in relation to death and stillbirth registration and management are modified to enable this and to protect public health.
The relevant measures in the Bill are stated to take account of the fact that families who have lost loved ones may be self-isolating, and that there may be reduced capacity to register and manage deaths as a result of pandemic-related sickness absence.
The Bill would:
- expand the list of people who can register a death;
- enable a death to be registered without the informant attending in person;
- amend who can sign a medical certificate of cause of death, enabling a doctor who may not have seen the deceased to certify the cause of death without the death being referred to the coroner;
- relax the requirement, in England and Wales, for a death to be reported to the coroner if the certifying doctor has not seen the deceased after death or within 14 days before death, so that the death need not be reported to the coroner if a doctor, and not just the one certifying the cause of death, has seen the deceased after death or within an extended period of 28 days before death;
- remove the requirement in Northern Ireland that a death from natural illness or disease must be notified to the coroner if the deceased had not been seen or treated by a registered doctor within 28 days prior to the death;
- streamline the registration of a stillbirth (Northern Ireland);
- enable documents that currently have to be physically presented in connection with death registration to be transmitted electronically or by other means;
- remove the need for a second confirmatory medical certificate in order for a cremation to take place in England and Wales and Northern Ireland;
- provide a power, for Scottish Ministers, by direction, to suspend the review of certain medical certificates of cause of death;
- enable Scottish Ministers to suspend provisions relating to the collection of ashes;
- provide that for the purposes of inquests, Covid-19 is not a notifiable disease, meaning that the coroner would not be required to sit with a jury;
- confer powers to facilitate the transportation, storage and disposal of dead bodies and human remains.