Online death documents

David Moger, Chief Executive of the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand

1 April 2021

Putting certificates of cause of death and cremation forms online is making a world of difference for New Zealand’s funeral directors and the families they work with.

Funeral directors can now search online for the documents they need – and they say this is quicker and easier, with less chance of error, than the old paper-based system.

It’s the result of work by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), Ministry of Health, and funeral directors to make it simpler to complete and access the medical documents required when someone dies.

Funeral directors are legally required to view a certificate of cause of death before they can bury or cremate a body. The old system meant they spent a lot of time chasing up missing certificates, including driving around to GP practices, rest homes and hospitals. Now they can search for the certificate online and if it’s not available at that time, they can receive an email alert to let them know when it has been completed.

As well, they no longer have to struggle to decipher the names and medical terms handwritten by doctors and nurse practitioners on paper certificates. Instead, it’s just a case of copying and pasting the typed causes of death and the certifier’s details into the appropriate sections of the online death registration form.

David Moger, Chief Executive of the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand, says the online Death Documents project is an excellent example of something put forward by the Funeral Directors Association and then picked up by government agencies to work through.

“This is a fantastic example of technology being put into practice in a way that makes an actual difference,” he says.

“Funeral directors get calls 24/7 from grieving families wanting to know where things are at with the documents that need to be completed, and now we can easily check online. As an industry we really feel we have been listened to, and the positive process has strengthened the relationship between funeral directors and government.”

About 80% of deaths from medical causes are now certified online in Death Documents. The removal of paper cause-of-death certificates has led to an increase in requests for access to Death Documents by different occupational groups that need to view the online certificates. Mortuary technicians will soon be the next group (after funeral directors and medical referees) to receive that access.

GP Richard Medlicott from Wellington’s Island Bay Medical Centre says the online service is working well.

“A patient of mine died recently and it was great being able to do all of the certification on my phone when I visited their family.”

More information about the online death documents project is on the Ministry’s website.

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