Code of the District of Columbia

§ 7–231.12. Death registration.

(a) The funeral director who first assumes custody of a dead body shall electronically submit a report of death to the Registrar within 5 days after date of death and before the final disposition of the body. The report of death shall be registered if it has been electronically completed and filed in accordance with this chapter. The Registrar may require a written filing or signed attestation. If the report of death cannot be submitted to the Registrar within 5 days after the date of death, the funeral director shall give the Registrar notice of the reason for the delay. The Registrar shall issue rules pursuant to § 7-231.29 to implement this provision.

(b) The funeral director shall obtain the medical certification from the death certifier, and the personal data needed for the report, including the decedent's gender identity or expression, from any individual with the right to control the disposition of the remains of the decedent, the location and conditions of interment, and arrangements for funeral goods and services pursuant to § 3-413.

(c) The funeral director shall not be liable for any damages or costs arising from claims related to the report of the decedent's gender identity or expression on the report of death unless the claims were the result of an error made by the funeral director.

(d) The Registrar shall establish a procedure pursuant to which an individual may pre-designate a gender identity or expression as an individual wishes it to be reported on his or her report of death. The pre-designation shall be filed with the Registrar. The Registrar shall check the gender designation of each report of death and amend the report if there is a pre-designated gender identity or expression that differs from the reported gender designation.

(e) If a decedent did not pre-designate a gender identity or expression with the Registrar pursuant to subsection (d) of this section, any individual may challenge the gender identity or expression reported to the funeral director within 10 days after the report of death has been registered, by filing a petition in court seeking an order to determine the gender identity or expression to be recorded for the decedent.

(f) Within 48 hours after death, the physician in charge of a patient's care for the condition which resulted in death shall complete, sign, and return the medical certification portion of the certificate of death to the funeral director, except when inquiry is required by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. In the absence or inability of the death certifier, or with his or her approval, the medical certification may be completed by the death certifier's associate physician, the chief medical officer of the institution in which the death occurred, or the physician who performed an autopsy upon the decedent, if the death is due to natural causes. The person completing the medical certification shall attest to its accuracy through an electronic process approved by the Registrar.

(g) When death occurs in an institution and the death is not under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the individual in charge of the institution, or his designee, shall provide the funeral director with a partially completed report of death, including the completed medical certification, within 48 hours of the death.

(h) When death occurs in an institution or outside of an institution, the death certifier, the individual in charge of the institution, or his designee, shall ensure that the following information is included on the partially completed report of death:

(1) The name of the decedent;

(2) The sex of the decedent;

(3) The time and date of death;

(4) The medical certification of death; and

(5) The electronic signature of the death certifier.

(i) If a death is natural, the death certifier shall use his or her best medical judgment to certify a reasonable cause of death. With the authorization of the decedent's next of kin, an autopsy may be performed by any hospital or private pathologist to identify and document the disease processes associated with a natural death.

(j) A manner of death that is believed to be other than by natural causes is subject to investigation and shall be reported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ("Medical Examiner") pursuant to § 5-1406(b). Upon notification of death, the Medical Examiner may take charge of the body and conduct an investigation or decline jurisdiction.

(k)(1) If an investigation is conducted by the Medical Examiner, the Medical Examiner shall determine the cause and manner of death, electronically sign, and return the medical certification portion of the death report to the funeral director within 48 hours after taking jurisdiction over the case.

(2) If the Medical Examiner cannot determine the cause and manner of death, electronically sign, and return the medical certification portion of the death report to the funeral director within 48 hours after taking jurisdiction over the case, the Medical Examiner shall report the cause and manner of death as "pending." Upon the conclusion of the investigation, the Medical Examiner may submit a Delayed Diagnosis Report to amend the cause and manner of death.

(l) If the cause of death cannot be determined within 48 hours after death, the physician completing the medical certification, or the Medical Examiner shall provide the funeral director and the Registrar notice of the reason for the delay. Final disposition of the body shall not be made until authorized by the physician completing the medical certification or the Medical Examiner.

(m) When a death is presumed to have occurred in the District pursuant to § 14-701, the Registrar shall register the death upon receipt of an order of the court. The court order shall include such findings of fact as necessary for completion of the death record. The death record shall be marked "presumptive," display on its face the date of registration, identify the court, and include the date of the decree.

(n) If the place of death is unknown but the dead body is found in the District, the report of death shall be completed and filed in the District. The place where the body is found shall be shown as the place of death. If the date of death is unknown, it shall be determined by approximation.

(o) When death occurs in a moving conveyance in the United States and the body is first removed from the conveyance in the District, the death shall be registered in the District and the place where it is first removed shall be considered the place of death. When a death occurs on a moving conveyance while in international waters or air space, or in a foreign country or its air space and the body is first removed from the conveyance in the District, the death shall be registered in the District, but the report shall show the actual place of death if it can be determined.

(p) In all other cases, the place where death is pronounced shall be considered the place where death occurred. If the date of death is unknown, the death certifier shall determine the date by approximation. If the date cannot be determined by approximation, the date found shall be entered and identified as the date of death.

(q) Each report of death shall contain sections concerning the pronouncement of death, disposition of the body, medical certification of the cause of death, and the Social Security number of the deceased. The section of the report of death that contains the pronouncement of death shall include all facts required to be reported in such section, except for those facts relating to the medical cause or causes of death.

(r) In the case of an expected death at a decedent's place of residence, attended by a treating physician or a registered nurse working in general collaboration with the treating physician, the attending registered nurse may sign the pronouncement of death section of the report of death.

(s) When death occurs in an institution and the attending physician is not available to pronounce death, another physician at the institution or the attending registered nurse who views the body may pronounce death, attest to the pronouncement by an approved electronic process, and, with the permission of the individual responsible for the medical certification, release the body to the funeral director.

(t) Within 5 days of receipt of autopsy results or other information that would change the information in the cause of death section of the report of death from that originally reported, the death certifier shall submit a supplemental report to the Registrar to amend the report of death.

(u) An institution may establish procedures to transfer, electronically or otherwise, information required for the report of death from other systems. The institution shall not implement such a procedure without review and approval by the Registrar.


(Oct. 30, 2018, D.C. Law 22-164, § 112, 65 DCR 9324.)