2.2Death certification is significant for several reasons. For the family, it is a record of the precious life that is now gone, it records important information as to familial medical histories and it might determine whether a life insurance claim can be paid. For the doctor, it marks the final act in the professional care relationship. However, for society, it provides vital demographic data upon which policy decisions are based and large sums of money are spent. Therefore, it is somewhat surprising to discover, as we describe in Chapter 3, that error in death certification is so common, not only in New Zealand but around the world. Doctors receive little training in correct death certification practice, and this task is commonly afforded low priority in the context of busy medical practices.
2.4In this part of the Report, we describe the current process of death certification, the problems we discovered through research and consultation and a range of proposals for reform of the system. In making proposals for reform, we are attempting to improve accuracy in the death certification process and create an efficient and cost-effective system.