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General News · 3rd June 2022
Margaret Verschuur
Medical Certification of Death Certificate? These are two distinctly different legal documents that are both often referred to as the Death Certificate, thus creating confusion. 

The Medical Certification of Death or Coroner’s Medical Certificate of Death is a document completed and signed by a physician, nurse practitioner, or coroner. It includes the name of the deceased, and the date, time, place, and cause of death (although the coroner may fill in the document with the cause pending). It must be completed within 48 hours after the death has occurred. This medical document, which belongs to the estate of the deceased, is typically requested by a funeral home, but can be obtained by the executor or next of kin taking responsibility for the deceased. It is required for a death to be registered with the Vital Statistics Agency, which is necessary before a cremation or burial can take place.

A Death Certificate is a document that is used as proof of death, which survivors need in order to apply for benefits or insurance, and to take care of the administrative tasks of settling an estate. Death Certificates become available only after a death has been registered with the Vital Statistics Agency. A funeral home typically registers a death, but a family can do this by taking the required information and documents to a Service BC location, or faxing or emailing them to the Vital Statistics Agency in Kelowna. The Medical Certification of Death is one of the documents needed for this registration process. On Cortes, Community-Led Death Care ( volunteers can assist families with this paperwork. After registration, Death Certificates can be obtained from the funeral home (if used), or by ordering them from the Vital Statistics Agency online or by telephone. Typically, the executor or administrator of an estate requires at least two Death Certificates, but sometimes none are necessary. They cost $27 each.

In summary, a Medical Certification of Death is not a Death Certificate, although even some health professionals call it this. It is necessary to register a death. Once registered, Death Certificate(s) can be obtained. The Death Certificate is used as proof of death and is usually needed to take care of the administrative tasks of settling an estate.