Medical Practitioners

This information is intended for medical practitioners dealing with those who have recently passed away.

Declaration of Death and limit of Time for Keeping the Body

A declaration of death must be made to the Registrar of Births and Deaths within five days after death under Article 9 of The Law Relating to the Registration of Births and Deaths in the Bailiwick of Guernsey 1935, as amended.

Article 15 of the same above Law, prescribes the period of time a body is allowed to be kept. If the body is not in the custody of the States (in reality, if not at the PEH mortuary), the limit of time it may remain is six days, after which the Medical Officer of Health must be informed.

Electronic forms to be completed by medical practitioners ONLY:

Form B:pdf icon Declaration of Death [410kb]

Form C:pdf icon Medical Certificate Cause of Death Form C [72kb]

Form E:pdf icon Medical Certificate of Cause of Death Following Post Mortem [475kb]

pdf icon Application for Cremation - PDF [243kb] (ONLY Part(s) B and C of the attached to be completed by medical practitioners)


Guidance on completing the relevant forms

Generally, (with Forms B and C) it is good practice for doctors to consider -

o   Legibility and spelling

Doctors should ensure the form is readable and consider writing in BLOCK CAPITALS.

o   Abbreviations or symbols

Doctors should not use abbreviations such as MI instead of myocardial infarction or (L) instead of left or medical symbols such as 1° instead of primary or # instead of fracture on death certificates. It is important to bear in mind that staff at the Greffe (and the family) may not understand what the abbreviation means, and an abbreviation is not helpful for the public record. It is also important to ensure the form is readable and for doctors to consider writing in BLOCK CAPITALS.

Examples of terms doctors should avoid for cause of death;

o   Cancer alone

The terms cancer, neoplasm or tumour should all have detail of the histological type, primary site and metastatic spread.

o   Organ failure alone

Deaths should not be certified as due to the failure of any organ without specifying the disease or condition that led to the organ failure. Failure of most organs can be due to unnatural causes, such as poisoning, injury or industrial disease.

o   Terminal events, modes of dying, clinical signs and other vague terms

Terms that do not identify a disease or pathological process clearly are not acceptable as the cause of death. Description of terminal events such as cardiac or respiratory arrest, syncope or shock describe modes of dying not causes of death. Signs such as oedema, ascites, haemoptysis, haematemesis and vague statements such as debility or frailty are equally unacceptable especially as a primary cause

o   Old age or general debility of age

It is possible that families, registrars or the Law Officers may request further explanation of any opinion that old age or exhaustion was the sole cause of death. Old age may be acceptable as the only cause of death in some cases of patients over 80 years of age. However, in all these cases you need to be confident the death was expected following gradual decline in health due to natural causes, but not to any identifiable disease.


Notwithstanding the examples given above, doctors should ensure they are competent by reflecting on their relevant professional practice and guidance on these issues (and in any cases not dealt with by the aforementioned, reference to the GMC Guidance will prove to be helpful for doctors completing Medical Certificates of Cause of Death in England and Wales (2010)).

In practice, (with regards to Form C) where more than 21 days has elapsed since the deceased has been seen by their local GP, but they received other appropriate care and the doctor is satisfied as to cause of death, the Law Officer will simply initial and date the top right hand corner of this document to show they have seen it and have taken no issue. It should be noted however, that if the medical practitioner who states the cause of death has not seen the body after death, another registered medical practitioner must also sign the certificate.

After a Post-Mortem examination, and if appropriate, e.g. if the death is from natural causes, the Law Officer is required to sign this document (Form E) to confirm there is no need for an inquest.


Industrial Disease

There are different types of industrial disease, one of importance to be noted is mesothelioma. If someone has died of this disease, the Law Officers should be informed as a post-mortem is required if the family wishes to make a claim. If a family does not wish to claim and does not want a post-mortem, their GP can contact the Law Officers to discuss a possible waiver.

If you have any questions regarding the information above, please direct them to: