Administrative Code

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Virginia Administrative Code
Title 12. Health
Agency 5. Department of Health
Chapter 550. Board of Health Regulations Governing Vital Records
4/16/2024

12VAC5-550-360. Responsibility of the attending physician.

When a patient dies, the physician in charge of the patient's care for the illness or condition shall be responsible for executing and signing the medical certification of cause of death as follows:

1. The physician shall execute and sign the medical certification of cause of death on the death certificate form prescribed by the State Registrar.

2. In an case where an autopsy is scheduled and the physician wishes to await its gross finding to confirm a tentative clinical finding, he shall give the funeral service licensee notice that he attended the patient and when he expects to have the medical data necessary for the certification of cause of death. If the provisions of 12VAC5-550-350 cannot be adhered to, he shall indicate that the cause is pending and sign the certification. Immediately after the medical data necessary for determining the cause of death have been made known, the physician shall, over his signature, forward the cause of death to the registrar.

3. If the physician is unable to establish the cause of death or if a death is within the jurisdiction of the medical examiner, he shall immediately report the case to the local medical examiner and advise the funeral service licensee of this fact. If the medical examiner does not assume jurisdiction, the physician shall sign the medical certification noting special circumstances and exception.

4. An associate physician who relieves the attending physician while he is on vacation or otherwise temporarily unavailable may certify to the cause of death in any case where he has access to the medical history of the case, provided that he views the deceased at or after death occurs and that death is from natural causes. In all other cases in which a physician is unavailable, the funeral service licensee shall contact the medical examiner.

5. When the attending physician shall have given the person in charge of an institution authorization in writing, the person in charge of such institution, or his designated representative, may prepare the medical certification of cause of death in cases where all pertinent aspects of the medical history are a part of the official medical records and the death is due to natural causes. In such instances, the signature shall be that of a physician.

Statutory Authority

§§ 32.1-12 and 32.1-250 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR355-29-100 § 10.2, eff. April 1, 1995; amended, Virginia Register Volume 19, Issue 26, eff. October 8, 2003.

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