Certificate of Death (Scotland) Bill supported


A bill to introduce a new scrutiny system for death certificates, to increase quality and confidence in the system, has been backed by the Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee in a report published today.

The Certification of Death (Scotland) Bill, introduced by the Scottish Government, would create the new posts of medical reviewer and senior medical reviewer, whose role would be to review a proportion of 'Medical Certificates of the Cause of Death' (MCCDs) for accuracy.

While the committee’s stage 1 report recommends that the general principles of the Bill be agreed, it raises a number of concerns.

Christine Grahame MSP, convener of the Health and Sport Committee, said:

“There are areas where we would like more clarity from the government. For example, we are concerned that the new system could prove less rigorous than the existing arrangements. It is essential that the public has confidence in the system, both in terms of accurately recording public health data and identifying possible cases of medical negligence or criminal activity.

“The committee was particularly interested in the role of technology in achieving these aims.

“The new system should not unduly delay the disposal of a body as this would cause practical difficulties for faith groups, remote communities and organ donation and the Bill should be amended to address these matters.”

Other findings of the report include:

  • The Bill would introduce an arrangement for a sample of scrutiny of death certificates on a random basis. The committee would like a more rigorous statistical analysis of the sample to increase confidence in the detection and investigation of unnatural death and help detect criminal activity, for example by a serial killer;
  • To ensure the accurate recording of death there should be either be an experience qualification or junior doctors should not be allowed to sign a death certificate without having completed training;
  • Where a death occurs abroad, assessment of the validity of documentation should be carried out centrally;
  • The committee welcomes the abolition of the higher fee relating to cremation only, in favour of a lower and universal fee also covering burial.

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