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Tuesday 23 September 2014

New death certs will omit cause to help families hit by suicide

Published 04/08/2014 | 02:30

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Joan Burton
Joan Burton

Death certificates which omit the cause of death are to be introduced by the Government to limit the suffering of families who have lost loved ones to suicide.

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Tanaiste Joan Burton has confirmed that she will bring in new regulations to allow a "short form" death certificate to be used, which won't include how the person lost their lives.

Ms Burton has said she is "very much aware" of the distress caused to families of those who died in tragic circumstances and the impact of having the cause of death on the certificate.

As a result, she said that drafting of the regulations to allow for the omission of the cause of death from a death certificate is at an advanced stage.

"I hope that this will provide some comfort to families where the details of the cause of death registered are upsetting," Ms Burton said.

"I will shortly introduce, by regulation, a short form death certificate that will omit the cause of death," she added.

Ms Burton was responding to a parliamentary question from People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett, who specifically called on her to address the hurt caused to families who have lost someone to suicide.

At present, under the governing 2004 Civil Registration Act, a coroner or doctor provides the required particulars of a death, including cause of death, in order that it can be formally registered. In effect, the death certificate is a copy of an entry in the register of deaths and must include the details as laid out in that entry, including cause of death.

There are approximately 400 deaths from suicide each year in Ireland at present. In such cases, death certs are released once the cause of death is formally determined, normally by way of an inquest before a coroner.

Other than the distress caused to families, the necessity of formally recognising the cause of death has implications for the settlement of estates and for companies who provide life insurance policies.

Distressing

For various life insurance packages, including accidental death cover, some companies include suicide as a reason not to pay out on the policy.

When asked for its response to Ms Burton's proposals, Irish Life told the Irish Independent that it looks forward to seeing details of the minister's proposal, but said it is too 
early to comment at the moment.

Family groups have argued that it is greatly distressing to have the cause of death, particularly in cases of suicide, visible on the certificates.

Irish Independent

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