How many doctors does it take to say that you are dead?


(Jane Williamson) #1

My mother-in-law died early on Monday morning in UK. She was 91 and had been living in a nursing home for six years. She had multiple sclerosis and dementia. Because she died at 3 in the morning, the doctor called would not sign a death certificate because he did not know her and he called it an unexplained death. Number 1.

She was then put into the care of the coroner and sent to the mortuary.Subsequent to which her GP was able to issue a certificate for the cause of death. Number 2.

We have received a bill from the undertakers for doctors services and when we queried this we were told that for the cremation to take place she had to be certified as dead by two independent doctors. Numbers 3 and 4. The cost for this is £150.00.

This is total lunacy and we thought that the french held the record for bureaucracy!!


(Jane Williamson) #2

Back from our tour of UK. Mother safely cremated!! I think things must have changed, or we have been stung!!
Good that your son has graduated, especially after all the nightlife in Newcastle.
There must have been rain here in Saone-et-Loire, as the fields are now green again, they were brown when we left two weeks ago.
You must be en vacances now and i hope you are enjoying it. The country is asways better than the town.


(Phil Harrison) #3

Fair enough Jane, probably not reasonable for me to make too many comments not knowing the circumstances as you do. I just know how I would have done things as an ‘old fashioned’ GP, given the legal constraints.

I am surprised that it was 2 other doctors who did the cremation form, as by law the first part is done by the doctor, especially if own GP, issuing the death certificate. The first part is, in may ways, a repeat of the death certificate, usually requiring prior good knowledge of the patients history. Payment wise, these forms are not part of a GPs NHS payments and are charged as a separate fee, hence the bill you received, which is paid by the funeral director to the GP. At least that was the situation when I retired 6 years ago!!

The house we have in the Aude is a holiday home (so far!!) It is in the village of Pepieux twixt Carcassonne and Narbonne, in the Minervois. We bought it at Christmas, having previously had a holiday apartment in Cannes (until we saw the light!! and moved westwards). We are off en famille for the Summer nrxt week after my son’s University graduation in Newcastle. (He made it!!!)

I agree with so called ‘Health and Safety’, hopefully David Cameron will reverse many of the crazy ones set up over the past few years. Still trying to get used to the French beaurocracy, but so far so good!! Phil


(Jane Williamson) #4

Absolutely! Because Stella died at 3am uk time it was not her own GP, and because they did not know her, they refused to give a cause of death and involved the coroner. Then her own GP was happy to attribute cause of death and issue the necessary certificate. According to the funeral director we have to pay £76.50 each to two independent doctors to certify that she is dead before the crematorium will carry out the cremation.
When you say that you have a home in Aude, is this a maison secondaire or your main home?
We live in the Clunysois, in the south of Burgundy which is like a larger version of the Cotswolds, where we used to live.
It is strange that you can partly divorce yourselves from the stupidities of UK, except when they come up to bite you. The culture that David Cameron says he is trying to reverse is one of the reasons we came to France and it does not carry quite the same sting here as it did in UK, partly because we do not vote here. France does not have the culture of Health and Safety pervading peoples lives, as anyone who has had a new roof will testify.


(Phil Harrison) #5

Just re reading your headline article again, are you sure 4 different doctors were involved? In my experience, the Doctor signing the first part of the cremation form would be her own doctor, who also issued the death certificate. He would then contact a colleague, maybe even the doctor who was first called out, to do the second part of the cremation certificate. It would depend, of course, on the second doctors availability.

I would agree with many of your analogies, but would will probably have to agree to disagree with the medical stance.

Anyway, I hope you are enjoying your part of France. We have a home in Aude, Languedoc, next trip impending for the Summer.

Cheers, Phil


(Jane Williamson) #6

Not really, I still think this total lunacy. I believe that it only takes two doctors to certify brain death before they start to harvest organs. If my mother in law was not dead at 3 am on the Monday morning, she certainly would be by 3pm 8 days later, having being in deep refrigeration all that time.
If there had been a rash of unexplained deaths from her nursing home, I could understand the necessity for all this palaaver, but there has not been. There is no Shipmanesque scenario here and all it takes is for people to apply common sense. The law in UK is far too rigid in many instances and people are treated as incapapble of making an informed judgement. This is yet another case of over-reaction by the bureaucrats and politicians which we are expected to swallow as being in our own interest. Sorry, but it doesn’t wash with me. After Dunblane the british olympic rifle team has had to go abroad to practice and yet the amount of illegally guns has been increasing since that time. Drug gangs do not apply for fire-arms certificates.
Honest people are made to jump through hoops when moving their own hard earned cash because of money laundering by major criminals, who can certainly afford to employ better accountants than we can. It is offensive and patronising and if more people of above average intelligence don’t make themselves heard,this dumbing down will go on and on and they will have only themselves to blame. I wonder what sort of wake-up call it will take before the intelligent will say enough is enough?


(Phil Harrison) #7

Hi Jane, I’m sorry to hear your news, but what you have experienced is all standard I am afraid. I was a GP for some 30 years and the rules have been consistent since before I started, although, in light of Dr Shipman, they have been more strictly adhered to.

The Doctor called in the night was, I suspect, part of the out of hours arrangement and, not knowing your mother-in-law, would not have been able to issue a death certificate, it would have to be her own doctor or the practice.

The 2 doctors for the cremation is the law, again standard, but to avoid Shipmanesque type scenarios.

It may appear bureaucratic, but it is, in my opinion, the safest and fairest system.

Hope that helps,

Phil Harrison


(Lucy Backs) #8

As you so rightly say - total lunacy!! Though considering the number of documents I have to fill in just to re-register my son at his school for next year I am not sure that UK is challenging France on the bureaucracy front just yet!!