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What is a medical certificate of cause of death?

A medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD) is a document that explains how and where a person died.

You’ll need an MCCD to register a death with your local register office. In some cases, a doctor will send the MCCD directly to the register office by email. Alternatively, the doctor may give you the MCCD so that you can take it with you when you register the death. It’s also worth knowing that you might have to provide some other documents to register the death too.

If you’re not sure if the doctor has sent the MCCD to the register office, you should call to ask before you go to your appointment.

Is it the same as a death certificate?

No, an MCCD isn’t a death certificate.

A death certificate is a different document that acts as an official record of a death. You'll get a copy of the death certificate after you've registered a death. Your local council will keep a copy for their records, too. Some people call MCCDs "cause of death certificates" or "medical death certificates". This can be confusing. Ask if you're not sure which document they mean.

Who issues medical certificates of cause of death?

An MCCD is usually completed by a doctor who looked after the person who died. Often, this will be the person's GP or house call doctor.

Sometimes, it's another kind of doctor who signs the medical certificate. For example, if a person died in a hospital, it could be any doctor who recently cared for them.

If the death was unexpected, the person's GP can usually still sign the MCCD if they're able to examine the body.

Can there be delays getting a medical certificate?

Yes. If a death is reported to the coroner, the MCCD might be delayed. A coroner is a judge who investigates unexplained deaths.

The coroner might get involved if the death was unexpected and a doctor couldn't examine the body. Or it might be because the person died in an accident or crime.

The coroner could ask for a medical examination of the body, or – rarely – a fact-finding hearing called an inquest. Unfortunately, funeral arrangements may have to be put on hold while these take place.

Once investigations are finished, the coroner will issue the MCCD.

What happens next?

After the medical certificate has been issued, you have five days to register the death. Need help? Read our step-by-step guide to registering a death in the UK.