Timely Certified Death Certificates
Current law requires a certificate of death for every death that occurs in Colorado to be filed with the state registrar within 5 days after the death occurs. The funeral director is responsible for filing the death certificate and must obtain the medical certification necessary to complete the portion of the certificate pertaining to the cause of death from a qualified individual. Physicians must complete, sign, and return to the funeral director all medical certification within 48 hours after a death occurs. If an inquiry is required to be made to a coroner, the coroner must determine the cause of death and complete and sign the medical certification within 48 hours after taking charge of the case. If the cause of death cannot be determined within 48 hours after a death, the medical certification must be completed as provided by rule.
The bill changes the time frame required to file a certificate of death with the state registrar from 5 days after a death occurs to
48 72 hours with limited exceptions It also imposes a requirement that a funeral director file the certificate within 48 hours if they are able to obtain the medical certification from a qualified individual within those 48 hours. after the funeral director assumes custody of a dead body, stillborn fetus, or dead fetus unless the individual responsible for completing the medical certification for the death certificate is unable to complete the medical certification for the death certificate within the required time frame, additional inquiry into the cause and manner of death is required by current law, or a coroner, a medical examiner, a forensic pathologist, or other qualified individual determines that additional time is required to determine the cause and manner of death, in which case the certificate of death must be completed and signed as soon as practicable. Any individual who is required to initiate, complete, respond to, or file a death certificate must use the electronic death registration system (EDRS) used by the department of public health and environment (department) and the state registrar; except that, a physician who is not yet registered to use the EDRS is not required to use it until March 1, 2024, or the date the physician is registered, whichever is earlier. The department is required to ensure that all physicians are registered to use the EDRS on or before March 1, 2024.
The physician responsible for completing the medical certification for a death certificate must do so within 72 hours after receipt of an EDRS request unless current law requires additional inquiry into the cause and manner of death. If a death is or may be due to unnatural causes, a physician required to complete a medical certification for a death certificate shall notify the coroner or the medical examiner when current law requires an inquiry or an autopsy to be performed.
The bill requires that a qualified individual complete the medical certification within 36 hours after the death has occurred unless an inquiry is required to be made to a coroner. The coroner shall determine the cause of death and complete the medical certification within 48 hours after taking charge of the case unless in good faith, the coroner determines that additional time is needed, in which case, the coroner must determine the cause of death and complete the medical certification as soon as practicable. Section 2 of the bill requires the department of public health and environment, upon request, to provide a certified death certificate to an applicant having a direct and tangible interest in the certified copy of the record of death within 24 hours.
The bill generally requires a decedent's established primary care physician to complete the medical certification for the decedent's death certificate if the death appears to be due to natural causes and is determined as such with a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the decedent received medical care from the primary care physician within a year of the death, the death occurred when the decedent was not under the direct care of another physician charged with the decedent's care during the illness or condition that resulted in death, and an inquiry into the death is not required. However, if within a year of the death, the decedent had been treated by a physician other than the decedent's established primary care physician for a chronic condition or terminal illness related to the decedent's death, the death appears to be due to natural causes and is determined as such with a reasonable degree of medical certainty, and an inquiry into the death is not required, that physician is responsible for completing the medical certification for the death certificate.
(Note: Italicized words indicate new material added to the original summary; dashes through words indicate deletions from the original summary.)
(Note: This summary applies to the reengrossed version of this bill as introduced in the second house.)