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What is a death certificate? How do I get it? What’s the point?

The death certificate is the first document to be obtained after a person’s death. Written by the doctor mandated to certify death, it includes a three-part administrative part and a confidential medical part for the ARS.

It is the drafting of this legal and regulated document that will then make it possible to declare the death in town hall and obtain a death certificate, which will be used, in turn, to carry out the various necessary procedures, including the organization of the funeral. What are the characteristics of the death certificate? How do I get it? What is its usefulness? Our answers in this matter.

What is a death certificate? What’s in it?

The death certificate is an official document issued by the doctor who certifies a death. It is a blue form in three parts and composed of two parts that the practitioner obtains from the Regional Health Agency (ARS). The drafting of the death certificate is governed by law and governed by Article L. 2223-42 of the General Code of Local Authorities.

It may be accompanied by a certificate of natural death, if applicable, a useful document if the deceased had taken out a life insurance or death insurance policy. In addition, it may be followed by other acts, including an autopsy if the deceased died at his workplace for reasons related to his activity – insofar as this may allow his relatives to receive compensation – or in the event of suicide, violent death, etc.

As you will have understood, the death certificate is the first document written after the death. It then allows the obtaining of the death certificate, in town hall. It is this second document that will be necessary to undertake all the steps following the disappearance of the deceased.

What does the death certificate contain?

The death certificate consists of two distinct parts: an administrative part and a medical part.

  • The administrative part, in three parts, must mention the name and surnames of the deceased, his date of birth, his sex and the address of his domicile. It must also indicate the date and time of his death, the commune in which the death occurred and all the information that may be necessary for the issuance of the authorization to close the coffin and the organization of the funeral certificates. Finally, the practitioner must sign this administrative part and affix his stamp.
  • The medical part explains the cause of death. On the other hand, it must remain anonymous and not reveal the identity of the deceased. Indeed, the information in this medical part is used for public health reasons and is collected by the National Institute of Health and Medical Research. They will join the database that lists the information collected on the other medical aspects of death certificates for static purposes.

What is the purpose of the death certificate?

The doctor goes to the place of death to ascertain the death of the person. It is possible to mandate any doctor registered with the Order of Physicians. The person must affix his signature and stamp to the certificate.

In addition, on the death certificate, the doctor must mention certain important elements. In particular, it must indicate:

  • whether or not the death presents a specific medico-legal problem in order to know whether the practice of an autopsy is necessary (in case of suicide, suspicious death, violent death, death in the workplace, etc.),
  • if the deceased was a carrier of a contagious disease, because if this is the case, he must be placed in immediate isolation,
  • if the deceased was possibly pregnant,
  • if a disease is the cause of death (cancer, etc.),
  • if the deceased is wearing a device containing a battery, because it must be removed to avoid radioactive waste or in case of cremation,
  • if the deceased had objected to organ donation during his lifetime or if there is a specific contraindication to this donation.

This document is therefore necessary since, if it is entrusted to the family of the deceased or to a person present in charge of managing the event, it is imperative to write it to confirm the death and organize the funeral. Indeed, it is the obtaining of the medical certificate of death that then makes it possible to obtain the death certificate, the latter being the trigger for the funeral and the various steps to be taken.

Moreover, without the medical and health information specified by the doctor in the death certificate, the deceased cannot be taken care of. Indeed, in the absence of any indication of this order related to death, the body, as a security measure, cannot be transferred to a funeral chamber. Without a death certificate, authorization to close the casket cannot be issued.

Consequently, without a death certificate, the death of the deceased is not recorded, his care is impossible, conservation care cannot be administered, the funeral cannot be celebrated and no act of succession is possible. This document is therefore indispensable.

Who is the recipient of a death certificate?

The death certificate is not intended for the family or relatives of the deceased. Indeed, it must then be distributed to the organizations that have the use.

As we have said, the certificate consists of three parts in two parts.

  • The first part consists of three administrative components. These must be handed over respectively to the town hall of the place of death, to the town hall of the funeral chamber and to the funeral or mortuary chamber.
  • The second part, medical, must remain confidential and is sealed by the doctor. It must then be sent to the Regional Health Agency (ARS).

Finally, remember that the death certificate is to be distinguished from the death certificate. The certificate is a medical document and the act an administrative document. Thus, after the declaration of death by a doctor and the drafting by the practitioner of the death certificate, it is advisable to go to the town hall within 24 hours to declare the death and obtain the death certificate.

To do this, it is enough to present the part of the death certificate intended for the town hall, to bring the family record book of the deceased and his own identity papers. The town hall then registers the death of the disappeared and writes the death certificate. It is then this document that the family and loved ones of the deceased keep in order to organize the funeral and to launch all the steps arising from the death.

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