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Burial and Cremation Review Group: Report and Recommendations

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SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

Death Certification

1. The procedure for certifying deaths should be sensitive to the many different faiths and beliefs in Scotland and ensure as short a delay as possible between death and disposal.
(paragraphs 13 and 14).

2. The same certification requirements should apply to all deaths regardless of the method of disposal of the body.
(paragraph 30)

3. Any partner in a multi- GP practice who has access to information about the deceased may certify death. Any medically registered member of the Hospital team caring for and having information about the deceased may certify death.
(paragraph 32)

4. Relatives should not have to pay for the forms required for the disposal of the body.
(paragraph 30)

5. Appropriately trained professional groups such as registered nurses and paramedics should be entitled to verify the fact that life is extinct.
(paragraphs 34-36)

6. The office of medical referee at crematoria should be abolished.
(paragraph 31)

7. A statistician to be called a Deaths Investigator should be appointed to enable frequent regular statistical checks to be carried out on all death data.
(paragraph 37)

8. A new system of death certification should be introduced based on one or other of 2 models proposed by the Group.
(paragraph 27)

9. One Model involves the appointment of Medical Investigators whose function will be to carry out a comprehensive paper based scrutiny of a 1% random sample of all deaths and up to a further 1% of deaths where concerns have been expressed. In this model only one signature will be required to certify death apart from the deaths which have been subject to comprehensive scrutiny where the death certificate will require to be countersigned by the Medical Investigator.
(paragraphs 38 - 44 and Appendix 2)

10. The other Model involves the appointment of Medical Examiners whose function will be to carry out a basic scrutiny of all deaths and a comprehensive scrutiny of 1-2% of these deaths. The death certificate in all deaths will require to be countersigned by the Medical Examiner.
(paragraphs 45- 48 and Appendix 3)

Burials, Cemeteries and Crematoria Management

11. All extant legislation, both primary and secondary, should be repealed and consolidated into a single Act with powers to make as and when necessary appropriate subordinate legislation covering burial, cremation and other forms of disposal.
(paragraph 9)

12. The right to instruct the disposal of bodies on death should be vested in the nearest relative as defined in section 50 of the Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006 (asp 4).
(paragraph 12)

13. All records and forms relating to the disposal of bodies should wherever possible be maintained in electronic form.
(paragraphs 15 and 60)

14. Regardless of ownership, all cemeteries, burial grounds of whatever type, and crematoria should be subject to the proposed new legislation.
(paragraph 49)

15. Legislation should be enacted to provide that there be a minimum depth of burial of 3 feet from the top of the coffin.
(paragraph 52)

16. Full burial grounds/cemeteries should be available for re-use for internments after a period of non-use of 75 years has elapsed. The necessary legislation should be retrospective. Detailed procedures regarding notice and public advertisement of the proposals etc are proposed.
(paragraphs 55 - 57)

17. The 'dig and deepen' method of re-use, which will require compliance with the proposed exhumation procedures, should be adopted.
(paragraphs 59 and 69 -73)

18. Gravestones, monuments and memorials should wherever possible, having regard to safety etc, be retained at or close to their original site. They could be re-used provided that any body or person having an interest such as Historic Scotland, the appropriate local authority and any identified descendants do not object.
(paragraph 59)

19. Unused lairs and lairs which have unused space should, provided certain procedures are fulfilled, be available for re-use.
(paragraph 61)

20. The sale of lairs in perpetuity should no longer be competent but lairs could be sold with a limited but renewable tenure of 25 years.
(paragraph 62)

21. The sale of blocks of lairs or multiple lairs should not be permitted.
(paragraph 63)

22. General provisions for cemetery management should be introduced. These should have regard to the English Local Authority Cemeteries Order 1977 Further matters should also be regulated.
(paragraph 50)

23. There should be legislation to make clear that "home cremation" is illegal.
(paragraph 65)

24. Burials at home and on private ground should require to be authorised by the Local Authority in accordance with regulations made by Scottish Ministers.
(paragraph 66)

Exhumation

25. A new streamlined administrative procedure, not involving the courts, should be introduced to regulate exhumations.
(paragraphs 68 - 70)

Exhumation for Re-Use

26. Following on completion of the re-use procedures burial authorities should be empowered to authorise exhumations in accordance with regulations by Scottish Ministers.
(paragraphs 72 and 73)

Exhumation of Cremated Remains

27. The exhumation of cremated remains should be regulated on the lines of the procedure that applies in Northern Ireland.
(paragraph 74)

Cremation and burial arrangements for those who die outwith Scotland

28. Responsibility for authorising the cremation of people who die abroad and whose bodies are returned to Scotland should be transferred from the Scottish Government to the COPFS. The COPFS should also be given responsibility for all bodies returned to Scotland regardless of the method of disposal.
(paragraphs 76 and 77)

29. Arrangements for the transfer of human remains within the UK should so far as possible be made uniform.
(paragraph 80)

Burial at Sea

30. The existing arrangements for burial at sea are satisfactory.
(paragraph 81 and Appendix 5)

Foetal Remains

31. Sufficient guidance exists as to the disposal of foetal remains. The Scottish Government should issue an update of the 1992 NHS circular on the disposal of such remains.
(paragraph 82)

Pandemic Flu/Epidemic/Infectious Disease

32. The power to suspend regulations relating to cremation in the case of a pandemic, epidemic or for any other reason should be extended to apply to burials. This power should be sufficiently flexible to apply to the whole of Scotland or to a specified area.
(paragraph 84)

33. A statutory obligation should be placed on NHS Boards and others to advise any person such as mortuary staff, embalmers and funeral directors who require to handle the body of anyone who has died because of, or while suffering from, an infectious disease of the cause of death and of the appropriate precautions to be taken.
(paragraph 88)