Before a body can be cremated
The Cremation Regulations 1973 require the permission of a medical referee before a body can be cremated. Under regulation 7 of the Regulations, a medical referee cannot permit any cremation unless a Cremation Certificate is issued by a certifying practitioner which requires the medical or nurse practitioner to see and identify the body.
Exemptions from Regulation 7
Hon Aupito William Sio, Associate Minister of Health, has authorised medical referees to permit cremations to be carried out without compliance with regulation 7, as provided for under Section 12 (b) of the Cremation Regulations 1973. This authorisation was issued due to workforce pressures in the aged residential care sector. The exemption applies for a two-year period from the date of approval, 19 December 2022.
The exemption only applies:
- in rest homes, residential care facilities, and other long-term in-patient facilities, and
- where the medical history and current conditions of the deceased are known by a medical or nurse practitioner.
This exemption does not apply to deaths in hospitals, hospices, private homes, or other settings and where a medical practitioner does not know the medical history of the individual. Certifying practitioners are still required to view the body of a person who dies outside of a residential care facility in order to issue a cremation certificate.
Under this authorisation a medical referee must receive advice from a trusted source, who has a reasonable level of assurance of the cause of death to verify the identity of the deceased and that the deceased died of natural causes. Medical referees have discretion in determining who constitutes a trusted source, but must record the identity, contact details, and position of the trusted source.
The exemption from Regulation 7 of the Cremation Regulations 1973 means that, in situations where a person has died in a residential care facility, rest home or other long term in-patient facility and where the death is not unexpected, a Form B cremation certificate may be issued without examining the deceased after death.
Under the exemption, the Form B cremation certificate should be completed by a certifying practitioner who previously attended the deceased before death (by personal attendance or via video-link). The Form B certificate should state that “the deceased was not examined after death as per the residential care facility exemption” (ie, under the provisions of the exemption issued by Hon Aupito William Sio on 19 December 2022).
The trusted source, usually a manager or registered nurse at the residential facility, must confirm to a funeral director (or other applicant for cremation) that they have identified the deceased and that they are satisfied that there were no suspicious circumstances to the death. A Deceased Verification form, updated from that provided by the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand for a previous exemption issued during the COVID-19 response, is available on the page below:
To ensure the Crematorium Authority knows the deceased may be safely cremated, the funeral director (or other applicant) should also provide an embalmer's certificate to confirm that there is no biomechanical aid in situ.
These certificates should be sent to the medical referee.
Medical cause of death certificate still required: please note that a practitioner who did not attend the deceased before death (“alternate practitioner”) must still examine the body after death in order to issue a medical cause of death certificate.