By now you should already know that I love death certificates. They are loaded with evidence and many times that evidence is wrong which makes it all the more fun. What some people don’t realize is that there is normally TWO informants on a death certificate, the physician that witnessed the death and the person that provided the background info. I wanted to talk a little bit about the physician.
If you obtain a copy of a death certificate from the state health department the document is considered to be an ORIGINAL as long as you are confident it represents the original accurately and that it hasn’t been altered/tampered with in any way which is usually the case.
The date of death is DIRECT evidence because it directly answers the question, “When did Mortimer Snerd” die?
But is the information PRIMARY, SECONDARY or UNDETERMINED? It depends. Was the physician actually present when the person died or was he going on information provided by someone else? You might think this is a bit nit picky but not really. It can contribute to an error.
Fast forward to when I was a deputy sheriff. When someone died at home a law enforcement officer would be dispatched to the house. The LEO would observe the scene, observe the body and conduct interviews. If it appeared that the person had died of natural causes the LEO would call the family doctor and ask him if he was willing to sign the death certificate. If he knew the patient well enough that he was comfortable with it, he would say yes. The body would then go to the funeral home. The doctor would never see the dead body but would sign the death certificate as the attending physician.
When you are looking at a death certificate pay attention to when the physician states he attended the deceased as well as what date he states he last saw the deceased. If you are really lucky, the doctor will make some sort of notation if he was not in attendance or if no one was in attendance when the person died. Many times the blanks won’t be filled in at all and then you won’t even know for sure. This is just something you need to think about if something doesn’t quite add up.
Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis