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J R Soc Med. 1998 Jul;91(7):371-6.

Do doctors read forms? A one-year audit of medical certificates submitted to a crematorium.

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Centre for Professional Ethics, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK.


To determine the thoroughness and accuracy with which medical certificates for cremation are completed, a record was made, during normal processing of the documents, of the number of questions that were not answered or answered wrongly, or in which clarification was required. Of 835 sets of forms only 346 (41%) were completed sufficiently accurately for the cremation to proceed without further enquiry. Junior doctors contributed the most errors but general practitioners and consultants also contributed large numbers of errors. Doctors ought to be far more accurate and thorough in completing cremation certificates than were those audited here. The results cast doubt on the reliability of information supplied on other forms. In view of the high frequency of poorly completed forms, review by a medical referee remains essential.

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