Death certificate

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The death certificate, also known as a death certificate or corpse certificate ( L-Schein ), is a public document in Germany in which a doctor, after a thorough examination of a human body, certifies the death of this person with personal details and time and place of death , if possible stating a cause of death and the type of death noted, i.e. whether it was a natural or unnatural death ( examination of the corpse ). For stillbirths with a birth weight of 500 g or more, a death certificate must be issued. The structure of the form and the type of information to be noted in it vary slightly in the individual federal states. This is because the Funeral Act is a state and not a federal matter ( federalism ).

It is not to be confused with the civil death certificate .

In Germany, more than 850,000 death certificates are issued every year.

Content and use of a death certificate

California State
Death Certificate for Wilfried Podriech, aka SÄTTY
Death certificate from the canton of Basel , Switzerland (2018)

The death certificate consists of four sheets of paper that are divided into two envelopes, one confidential and one non-confidential. In the non-confidential part of the death certificate, the doctor provides the following information:

  • Personal details
    • First and last name, gender
    • Home address
    • Birthday and place of birth
  • Last attending physician
  • Time and place of death
  • Identified by whom
  • Warning notices (e.g. risk of infection)
  • Type of death (natural, not natural (accident, operation, homicide or suicide) or unexplained)
  • Information from the doctor and signature

The following additional information can be found in the confidential part of the death certificate

  • Sure signs of death (rigor mortis, death spots, or putrefaction)
  • Cause of death with subdivision
    • Immediate cause of death
    • in consequence of
    • as a result of (basic illness)
  • Classification of cause of death
  • Reasons for the type of death

The use of the confidential part varies significantly from state to state. In most cases, the death certificate is sent to the health department and the crematorium in the event of a cremation and, in the case of an "unnatural" type of death, to forensic medicine in advance and then to the public prosecutor for clearance.

The non-confidential part of the corpse certificate and the findings documented in it are the basis for decisions by registrars to certify the death (also for the extension and reduction of the funeral period) and the issuance of a death certificate . In addition, the death certificate is also evaluated for the population statistics, namely the cause of death statistics .

The cause of death statistics are used in health policy and in the health economy for decisions about investments in preventive and curative measures. Studies from 1987 and 2019 show, however, that death certificates are often incorrectly issued. Often the statement "cardiovascular failure" does not provide any indication of its cause; Infectious diseases, for example, often go undetected. In Germany, the information provided by doctors has to be converted into ICD codes by the statistical authorities of the federal states, although this practice varies from one state to another, which further distorts the statistics.

In some federal states, an additional clearance by the police is required for clearance for cremation and in all federal states except Bavaria a second examination of the corpse must be carried out by a medical officer in the crematorium.

Provisional death certificate

In some federal states (e.g. Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Saxony) emergency doctors only issue a temporary death certificate. The nearest resident doctor who can be reached is obliged to examine the corpse and issue the final death certificate.

Costs and billing amount

In most cases, the medical fees for the death certificate are disbursed by the funeral home. The death certificate is subject to the fee schedule for doctors (GOÄ). Item 100 GOÄ includes the examination of a dead person including the determination of death and issuing of the corpse certificate according to GOÄ B VII. In addition to item 100, a road allowance according to § 8 with night surcharge GOÄ can be claimed; it depends on the distance (one way). Travel compensation according to § 9 GOÄ will be charged for distances over 25 km.

According to current case law, the additional billing of a home visit to carry out the inquest is no longer permitted since 1998. The current GOÄ, which has been valid since 1996, does not contain any further regulations.

In the case of deaths in hospitals and other facilities, whose tasks also include medical treatment of the admitted persons, special remuneration for the examination of the corpse and the issuing of the death certificate cannot be demanded. In all other cases, the person obliged to undertake the funeral has to bear the costs of the examination of the corpse and the issuing of the death certificate or to reimburse the person responsible for it.

Legal sources

Funeral law is state law, but is subject to the Federal Funeral Ordinance.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: death certificate  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Christine Ruhland: Appearances are deceptive . In: Welt am Sonntag . No. 8 , February 23, 2014, ZDB -ID 1123516-0 , p. 56 ( online ).
  2. Susanne Donner: Dr. Schlendrian and death. In: November 15, 2019, accessed November 21, 2019 .
  3. REVOSax state law Saxony - Sächsisches Bestattungsgesetz - SächsBestG. Retrieved February 25, 2017 .
  4. (§11 (2) Funeral Act RLP)
  5. Settlement of the medical investigation according to GOÄ (PDF)
  6. Thuringian Funeral Act §7
  7. Saxon Funeral Act - SächsBestG. In: REVOSax state law Saxony. Retrieved February 25, 2017 .