Judicial consequences in Spain for the completion of the medical death certificate

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The completion of the death certificate is indispensable in Spain for a death to be recorded in the civil registry. Occasionally, doctors may be reluctant to sign a death certificate due to possible legal consequences. This study seeks to analyse the possible judicial consequences doctors may face upon filling out this medico-legal document. Sentences published on the Judicial Power's website between 2009 and 2019 containing the term "death certificate" were analysed. From a total of 2100 sentences examined, only 15 were found to contain the term "death certificate" as part of the claim. In only 7 of these cases the claim was made against the physician, and in 5 the physician was found guilty. Three of them concluded falsity via criminal proceedings, one via administrative proceedings for refusing to sign the certificate and one through civil proceedings for filling out an erroneous antecedent cause of death. In view of the above, it can be inferred that the completion of the death certificate poses few judicial consequences for physicians. In addition, this study reveals the importance of the death certificate document as evidence in judicial proceedings.
CRUE-CSIC (Acuerdos Transformativos 2021)
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