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How to get a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death

One of the first things you need to do after a loved one passes away is to get a Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death (MCCD).

This is an extremely important step, as, without this certificate, you won’t be able to register the death at your local register office.

 

What is a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death?

A Medical Certificate of Death includes the following information about the deceased:

- Name
- Age
- Date of death
- Place of death
- Cause of death

If it’s clear why the person died, and it was from natural causes (for example, if your loved one suffered from heart disease), it should be simple for a doctor to determine the cause of death and issue the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death straightaway.

The cause of death is usually written in formal medical terminology, stating the main cause and other conditions that have contributed to the death. The doctor also has to write when they last saw the patient and whether the deceased has been seen after death.

However, if the doctor is unsure about the cause of death, circumstances surrounding the death are uncertain or they haven’t seen the patient for 14 days (in England, Scotland and Wales) or 28 days (in Northern Ireland), they won’t be able to issue the medical certificate immediately. In these cases, the death must be reported to a Coroner (or Procurator Fiscal in Scotland). The Coroner will then investigate the death. They may require a post-mortem or, if the cause still cannot be determined, a Coroner’s inquest.

If this is the case, you will not be able to register the death until the Coroner has concluded their investigations. However, the Coroner will usually issue an interim death certificate so that the funeral can go ahead, and probate can be granted.

 

Who will issue the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death?

The person issuing the medical certificate will depend on where your loved one died.

If they died at home, the GP may give you the certificate personally or you may be asked to collect it from the GP’s receptionist.

If the death occurred in hospital, or a care home, the administrative staff will usually give the certificate to the next of kin.

If you know whether your loved one wanted to be buried or cremated, let the doctor who is completing the medical certificate or the Coroner’s officer know. Additional forms are needed for a cremation to take place, and it’s easier for the professional staff if they are aware of this at an early stage.

If you are planning to cremate your loved one rather than bury them, please make their GP or the hospital aware as there is a different form that will need to be obtained, which will need to be signed by two different doctors. The first form is known as the Certificate of Medical Attendant (or Form 4). This is often signed by the same doctor who issued the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. The second form is known as the Confirmatory Medical Certificate (or Form CR5), This form is completed by a different doctor, who will check and confirm the details provided by the first*. There is a fee of £164 for the completion of these forms, this covers the cost of the two forms and is composed of two payments of £82. These fees are not applicable in all cases, for instance in the death is referred to a Coroner.

*Please note, this process has been revised to reflect the temporary changes to the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008 provided for in the Coronavirus Act 2020 which came into force on 26 March 2020. The requirement for the Confirmatory Medical Certificate (Form CR5) has been temporarily removed. The amended Regulations and revised guidance will be in force until further notice.

 

What’s the difference between the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death and a Death Certificate?

Medical Certificate of Cause of Death: A piece of paper issued by a doctor after someone has died. It details the cause of death and is required to register the death.

Death Certificate: A statutory certificate issued by the Registrar, at the time that the person taking responsibility for the funeral arrangements registers the death. This is official notification that the death has occurred and is required for managing an estate.

 

What to do next

Once the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death has been issued, you will need to register the death and get the Death Certificate.

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