Death from natural causes

Information about registering a death, arranging the funeral and what to do depending on the cause and place of your loved one's death.

If death was due to natural causes you will be given the following documents:

  • Medical Certificate of Cause of Death: signed by a doctor, this is the official record of the cause of someone's death and is required to register the death. Although not yet fully in force, by April 2014 new legislation will require that the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death is also agreed by an independent doctor known as the Medical Examiner. A special certificate, which can be signed by a doctor or a midwife, is issued in the case of a baby who has died on or before their 28th day of life.
  • Formal notice: this is attached to the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. The doctor (or midwife) will remove this before placing the main certificate in a specifically designed envelope and giving it to you. This confirms that the certificate has been signed and gives a list of those people entitled to register the death and the information they will need to do this.

You will usually be shown or told what the cause of death was, which will be written using medical jargon (e.g. 'carcinoma of the breast' instead of 'breast cancer'). Don't be afraid to ask for clarification about anything you don't understand. If the certificate states that the cause of death was a medical condition you were unaware of or seems to be at odds with the medical history you have been given, don't be reluctant to challenge it and ask for a fuller, more detailed explanation.

However, don't get too upset if there are some spelling mistakes in this document as errors in the spelling of a name or age can appear in hospital records, especially if someone has been admitted in a hurry as an emergency. The Registrar uses the information provided by you (the 'informant') to create the entry in the register, not the personal details on the medical certificate.

Helping you through

If you are uncertain about what to do or want to query or challenge the cause given on a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, call us or contact us online. Our dedicated bereavement helpline on 03700 864 570 is available seven days a week and lines are open Monday to Friday 8 am to 8 pm, Saturday 9 am to 6 pm and Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. You'll get professional advice and assistance from a team specially trained in understanding your situation and guiding you through all the legal and emotional issues that confront you.

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