30 April 2012


After reading 'Busy GPs view bodies in car parks' by Sam Rigney in today's Newcastle Herald I'm wondering about the scope for a drive-in death certificate service ... bundle your deceased relatives or friends into the car, drive them past the doctor and collect both the fries, a complementary Coke and certification that the passenger has indeed expired.

Registration of deaths in NSW is covered under ss 36 and 41 of the Births, Deaths & Marriages Registration Act 1995 (NSW), with the expectation that a state register will encompass all deaths. (A stillbirth is registered as a birth but not as a death.)

The Herald reports that
Dead bodies are being driven to car parks and back lanes for viewing by overworked GPs who baulk at attending funeral homes to sign cause of death and cremation certificates. The Newcastle Herald has spoken to four funeral directors who say the "grossly inappropriate" and "disgusting" practice occurs in the Hunter every week.
After a person dies their treating doctor is obligated to fill out the relevant paperwork and declare them deceased before that person is transported to a funeral home. 
"This practice was introduced so doctors didn’t have to go out in the early hours of the morning to do it", one Hunter funeral director, who asked to remain anonymous, said. 
But once a person is pronounced dead and taken to a mortuary the Australian Medical Association requires their doctor to view the body, sign on a cause of death or fill out a cremation certificate. 
The director said in some instances, rather than viewing the bodies at an appropriate location, such as a mortuary, the doctors ask for the bodies to be brought over to their practice. 
The bodies were transported by vans with the deceased placed in a body bag on a stretcher. 
The deceased person was often viewed in a public car park at the surgery and in some cases on main roads. 
"If people knew their deceased mother or grandmother was being viewed in an open car park they would find it disgusting", the director said.
"It’s grossly inappropriate and just the height of arrogance that this has to happen."
Funeral directors are, of course, paragons of best practice and the very highest ethics.

Hunter Urban Medicare executive Mark Foster is reported as commenting that
We are aware of instances where a funeral director has offered to bring a deceased former patient’s body to a chosen location for viewing by their GP and where this has occurred it was always done with respect and discretion.