Review of medical certificates of cause of death
Section 11: Action following unsatisfactory review: senior medical reviewer
35.This section applies where a medical reviewer has been unable to agree with the certifying doctor that a medical certificate of cause of death is in order and has referred the matter to the senior medical reviewer.
36.The senior medical reviewer must also come to a view on whether the given cause of death is a reasonable conclusion and that other information in the certificate is correct. To do so, he or she may conduct a further review of the certificate in the same manner as a medical reviewer.
37.If the senior medical reviewer is of the view that the certificate is in order, the certificate will be approved and sent to the relevant registrar for registration to proceed.
38.However, if the senior medical reviewer does not think that the certificate is in order, he or she must inform the doctor who certified the cause of death, giving reasons for his or her view, and invite the doctor to replace the certificate. There is no obligation on certifying doctors to change their opinion but they may agree to issue a replacement certificate which takes account of the reasons why the senior medical reviewer considers that the certificate is not in order, thus allowing the senior medical reviewer to then approve the certificate and notify the registrar. If the certifying doctor issues a replacement certificate but the senior medical reviewer does not agree with the revised cause of death information, or the certifying doctor does not issue a replacement certificate and the senior medical reviewer is not persuaded of the doctor’s original view as to the cause of death, the senior medical reviewer must refer the certificate to the procurator fiscal for investigation.
39.In cases where the senior medical reviewer agrees with the cause of death, but believes that other information contained in the certificate, or its replacement, is incorrect (such as whether a pacemaker is fitted), or where the doctor will not issue a replacement certificate, the senior medical reviewer can take steps to alert whomever he or she considers appropriate as to what he or she believes to be the relevant information. This might typically be the family of the deceased or the person in charge of the burial or cremation of the deceased.
40.The senior medical reviewer can also take such steps when referring a certificate to the procurator fiscal.