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— Last updated: Sep 2012, Updated monthly.
TABLE OF CONTENTSArticle 1. Duty of Registering Death
, Article 2. Responsibility of Attending Physician
, Article 3. Responsibility of Coroner
, Article 4. Content of Certificate of Death
, Article 5. American Indians
Article 1. Duty of Registering Death
Each death shall be registered with the local registrar of births and deaths in the district in which the death was officially pronounced or the body was found, within eight calendar days after death and prior to any disposition of the human remains.
(a) On or before January 1, 2005, the department shall implement an Internet-based electronic death registration system for the creation, storage, and transfer of death registration information.
(b) The electronic death registration system implemented pursuant to this section shall protect the proper use of the death registration information created, stored, and transferred within the system.
(c) The electronic death registration system that is implemented pursuant to this section shall be subject to any limitation placed on the accessibility and release of personally identifying information contained in those death records by any other provision of law or subsequently enacted legislation.
A funeral director, or person acting in lieu thereof, shall prepare the certificate and register it with the local registrar.
The State Registrar, at his or her discretion, may incorporate computer or telephone facsimile technology, or both, in the statewide program of death and fetal death registration, including, but not limited to, the issuing of permits for disposition of human remains. Nothing in this section shall limit the ability of local districts to file certificates of death and fetal death manually within the local registration districts.
The funeral director shall obtain the required information other than medical and health section data from the person or source best qualified to supply this information.
The medical and health section data and the time of death shall be completed and attested to by the physician and surgeon last in attendance, or in the case of a patient in a skilled nursing or intermediate care facility at the time of death, by the physician and surgeon last in attendance or by a licensed physician assistant under the supervision of the physician and surgeon last in attendance if the physician and surgeon or licensed physician assistant is legally authorized to certify and attest to these facts, and if the physician assistant has visited the patient within 72 hours of the patient's death. In the event the licensed physician assistant certifies the medical and health section data and the time of death, then the physician assistant shall also provide on the document the name of the last attending physician and surgeon and provide the coroner with a copy of the certificate of death. However, the medical health section data and the time of death shall be completed and attested to by the coroner in those cases in which he or she is required to complete the medical and health section data and certify and attest to these facts.
The medical and health section data and the physician's or coroner's certification shall be completed by the attending physician within 15 hours after the death, or by the coroner within three days after examination of the body. The physician shall within 15 hours after the death deposit the certificate at the place of death, or deliver it to the attending funeral director at his or her place of business or at the office of the physician.
An embalmer may authorize his or her signature to be affixed to the certificate after he or she has embalmed a body, as required by this chapter, by a written special power of attorney that shall be retained for a period of one year.
Article 2. Responsibility of Attending Physician
The physician and surgeon last in attendance, or in the case of a patient in a skilled nursing or intermediate care facility at the time of death, the physician and surgeon last in attendance or a licensed physician assistant under the supervision of the physician and surgeon last in attendance, on a deceased person shall state on the certificate of death the disease or condition directly leading to death, antecedent causes, other significant conditions contributing to death and any other medical and health section data as may be required on the certificate; he or she shall also specify the time in attendance, the time he or she last saw the deceased person alive, and the hour and day on which death occurred, except in deaths required to be investigated by the coroner. The physician and surgeon or physician assistant shall specifically indicate the existence of any cancer as defined in subdivision (e) of Section 103885, of which the physician and surgeon or physician assistant has actual knowledge. A physician and surgeon may designate, one or more other physicians and surgeons who have access to the physician and surgeon' s records, to act as agent for the physician and surgeon for purposes of the performance of his or her duties under this section, provided that any person so designated acts in consultation with the physician and surgeon.
Article 3. Responsibility of Coroner
A physician and surgeon, physician assistant, funeral director, or other person shall immediately notify the coroner when he or she has knowledge of a death that occurred or has charge of a body in which death occurred under any of the following circumstances:
(a) Without medical attendance.
(b) During the continued absence of the attending physician and surgeon.
(c) Where the attending physician and surgeon or the physician assistant is unable to state the cause of death.
(d) Where suicide is suspected.
(e) Following an injury or an accident.
(f) Under circumstances as to afford a reasonable ground to suspect that the death was caused by the criminal act of another. Any person who does not notify the coroner as required by this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.
The coroner whose duty it is to investigate such deaths shall ascertain as many as possible of the facts required by this chapter.
The coroner shall state on the certificate of death the disease or condition directly leading to death, antecedent causes, other significant conditions contributing to death and other medical and health section data as may be required on the certificate, and the hour and day on which death occurred. The coroner shall specifically indicate the existence of any cancer, as defined in subdivision (e) of Section 103885, of which he or she has actual knowledge. The coroner shall within three days after examining the body deliver the death certificate to the attending funeral director.
In any case involving an infant under the age of one year where the gross autopsy results in a presumed diagnosis of sudden infant death syndrome, the coroner shall, within 24 hours of the gross autopsy, notify the local health officer, as defined in Section 123740.
(a) In deaths investigated by the coroner or medical examiner where he or she is unable to establish the identity of the body or human remains by visual means, fingerprints, or other identifying data, the coroner or medical examiner may have a qualified dentist, as determined by the coroner or medical examiner, carry out a dental examination of the body or human remains. If the coroner or medical examiner with the aid of the dental examination and other identifying findings is still unable to establish the identity of the body or human remains, he or she shall prepare and forward the dental examination records to the Department of Justice on forms supplied by the Department of Justice for that purpose.
(b) The Department of Justice shall act as a repository or computer center, or both, with respect to dental examination records and the final report of investigation specified in Section 27521 of the Government Code. The Department of Justice shall compare the dental examination records and the final report of investigation, if applicable, to records filed with the Violent Crime Information Center (Title 12 (commencing with Section 14200) of Part 4 of the Penal Code), shall determine which scoring probabilities are the highest for purposes of identification, and shall submit the information to the coroner or medical examiner who submitted the dental examination records and the final report of investigation, if applicable.
Article 4. Content of Certificate of Death
The certificate of death shall be divided into two sections.
(a) The first section shall contain those items necessary to establish the fact of the death, including all of the following and those other items as the State Registrar may designate:
(1) Personal data concerning decedent including full name, sex, color or race, marital status, name of spouse, date of birth and age at death, birthplace, usual residence, and occupation and industry or business.
(2) Date of death, including month, day, and year.
(3) Place of death.
(4) Full name of father and birthplace of father, and full maiden name of mother and birthplace of mother.
(6) Disposition of body information including signature and license number of embalmer if body embalmed or name of embalmer if affixed by attorney-in-fact; name of funeral director, or person acting as such; and date and place of interment or removal. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, an electronic signature substitute, or some other indicator of authenticity, approved by the State Registrar may be used in lieu of the actual signature of the embalmer.
(7) Certification and signature of attending physician and surgeon or certification and signature of coroner when required to act by law. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, the person completing the portion of the certificate setting forth the cause of death may attest to its accuracy by use of an electronic signature substitute, or some other indicator of authenticity, approved by the State Registrar in lieu of a signature.
(8) Date accepted for registration and signature of local registrar. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, the local registrar may elect to use an electronic signature substitute, or some other indicator of authenticity, approved by the State Registrar in lieu of a signature.
(b) The second section shall contain those items relating to medical and health data, including all of the following and other items as the State Registrar may designate:
(1) Disease or conditions leading directly to death and antecedent causes.
(2) Operations and major findings thereof.
(3) Accident and injury information.
(4) Information indicating whether the decedent was pregnant at the time of death, or within the year prior to the death, if known, as determined by observation, autopsy, or review of the medical record. This paragraph shall not be interpreted to require the performance of a pregnancy test on a decedent, or to require a review of medical records in order to determine pregnancy.
Article 5. American Indians
The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Birth and death certificate-linking studies done by the department in 1974 and repeated in 1984, show unacceptably high rates of error in the completion of death certificate information recording ethnicity for American Indian infants.
(b) Official vital data on deaths for American Indians in the State of California indicate an implausible death rate equal to one-half of the United States rate for all races and one-quarter of the rate for American Indians in all states.
(c) Good demographic data on the American Indian people within the state does not exist and the data that does exist is fragmented and difficult to access and compile.
(d) The lack of accurate vital data on American Indians in California results in a significant loss of federal funds for the provision of health care and promotion services to American Indian people residing in 37 rural counties within the state.
(a) The Rural Health Division of the department shall cause to be undertaken a three-year study for the purpose of establishing more valid statistics regarding American Indian death rates, including rates for the 10 leading causes of death for American Indians within the 37 designated rural Indian counties as follows: Humboldt, Shasta, Siskiyou, Modoc, Del Norte, Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma, Glenn, Butte, Colusa, Plumas, Yuba, Yolo, Tehama, Sutter, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sierra, Tulare, Tuolumne, Amador, Mariposa, Calaveras, Fresno, Kings, Madera, Mono, Inyo, Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, Lassen, Santa Barbara, Trinity, and San Diego.
(b) This study shall enlist the fullest possible participation of the Indian community and specifically the Indian clinics currently providing health care services to rural Indians of the state. This project shall be administered in a manner that allows for input from, and consultation with, concerned tribes and tribal organizations and American Indian-controlled health care corporations.
(c) This study shall identify methods to improve the quality of official state data on Indian mortality and carry out activities to achieve that goal, including the provision of training and the development of educational materials for morticians and coroners operating within the state.
For the purpose of conducting the three-year study required pursuant to Section 102905, the department is hereby encouraged to contract with a federally recognized tribe or tribal organization or an American Indian-controlled health care corporation or research institution having a record of good standing with the Department of Managed Health Care and the Indian Health program within the department, and established competence in the area of records management.
The study shall be conducted in three phases, as follows:
(a) Phase one of the study shall include research design and data acquisition, including funds for the purchase of data from tribal, federal, state, and county sources and the encoding of this data to a computer-readable form.
(b) Phase two of the study shall include a computerized matching of the American Indian-specific data with the officially known deaths within the state for a selected two-year period, and all necessary statistical analysis and validation of any findings.
(c) Phase three shall include the dissemination of the findings from the study, including efforts to improve the collection of vital event data on the American Indian population within the state.
The department shall report to the Legislature on or before January 1, 1994, on the implementation of this article. The department also shall report to the Legislature, on or before four years after the date that the initial funding is received to implement this article, on the results of the study required by this article.
The state department shall begin to implement the activities referred to in Sections 102905, 102910, 102915, and 102920 only upon an appropriation for the specific purpose of funding the activities.