Death Certificates

 

GUIDANCE FOR PHYSICIANS REGARDING DEATH CERTIFICATES

Louisiana law provides that the last physician to attend a decedent within 10 days of death must complete and execute a death certificate within 24 hours of death.[1] A physician who willfully and knowingly neglects or refuses to complete and sign a death certificate within the time allotted by law may be subject to criminal prosecution, incarceration and civil fines.[2] Equally significant, the Board may consider such a failure to constitute professional incompetency or unprofessional conduct, providing grounds for disciplinary action against  a physician’s license.[3]

Not only do the penalties of the Louisiana Medical Practice Act apply, but the Vital Records penalties also apply. The completion and/or execution of a legal document, such as a death certificate, by one other than the physician whose name is signed to the document is an unlawful activity which subjects an offender to civil penalties and/or criminal prosecution by a district attorney or Louisiana Attorney General for a felony or misdemeanor. [4] Similarly, a physician or coroner who willfully and knowingly neglects or refuses to complete and sign a death certificate within the time allotted by law, is also subject to criminal and civil fines. [5]

Delays resulting from inaccuracies, completion and execution of death certificates can have a devastating impact on the families of the deceased, both emotionally and financially. Please be sensitive to the needs of the families.

Electronic Death Registration (LEERS) – The state requires that all death certificates are entered into this system, either by physicians or funeral homes.  Currently 90% of all death certificates that physicians sign are done so electronically.  To obtain more information or to gain entry into the system, go to http://new.dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/page/913

Using the above link, a physician who is registered in the system is able to digitally sign a death certificate instantly from anywhere with an internet connection, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

 

[1]La. Rev. Stat. §40:49
[2]La. Rev. Stat. §40:61B.(1), (3).
[3]La. Rev. Stat. §37:1285A(12) and (13) provide that the Board may suspend, revoke or impose probationary terms, conditions or restrictions upon the license of a physician as a result of 'Professional or medical incompetency'; or for 'Unprofessional conduct.'
[4]La. Rev.Stat.§40:61A, B. Such an individual may also be prosecuted for the felony crimes of injuring public records, filing or maintaining false public records, La.Rev.Stat. § 14:132, 14:133, respectively, or for forgery, La. Rev. Stat.§40:72.
[5]La. Rev.Stat. §40:61B(1), (3)