Florida Statute 406.12 states that it is the duty of any person in the district where a death occurs, who becomes aware of the death, to report such death and circumstances forthwith to the District Medical Examiner.
Florida Statute 406.11 requires that deaths occurring under the following circumstances be reported:
(a.) When a person dies in the state:
(b.) When a body is brought into the state without proper medical certification
- Of criminal violence.
- By accident.
- By suicide.
- Suddenly, while in apparent good health.
- Unattended by a practicing physician or other recognized practitioners.
- In prison or penal institutions.
- In police custody.
- In any suspicious or unusual circumstances.
- By criminal abortion.
- By poison.
- By disease, injury or toxic agent resulting from employment.
- By disease constituting a threat to public health
(c.) When a body is to be cremated, dissected or buried at sea.
Florida Statute 406.11(1)(c) requires that the cause and manner of death in the Death Registration Form completed by the attending physician be reviewed and approved by the medical examiner's office prior to such disposition. If any of the circumstances outlined in Florida Statute 406.11(1)(a) and (b) are present, the medical examiner's office may assume jurisdiction of the case (more information on Cremation Authorizations page).
Florida Statute 382.011(1) defines an unattended death as, ". . . any death that occurred more than 12 months after the decedent was last treated by a primary or attending physician as defined in 382.008(3), or any death for which there is reason to believe that the death may have been due to an unlawful act or neglect. . ."
Florida Statute 382.008(3) defines death an attended death as, . . . "a physician who treated the decedent through examination, medical advice, or medication during the 12 months preceding the date of death."
The Medical Examiner will not take jurisdiction because:
1. The attending physician is on vacation or otherwise unavailable. In such cases death certification will be the responsibility of the covering physician pursuant to Florida Statute 382.008(3). The covering physician cannot refuse to care for a patient who became ill because he/she "did not know the patient" or "had not seen him/her recently". It would be the covering physician's responsibility to review the medical records and/or interview the patient and family, and determine the appropriate course of treatment. Similarly, the other activities of attending physician's practice, including death certification, are now the covering physician's responsibilities.
2. The attending physician does not "feel comfortable" or does not know why he/she died." Death certification is a responsibility of the attending physician when the death does not fall under the medical examiner's jurisdiction as stated in Florida Statute 406.11. All that is required is a certification of the cause of death "to the best of my knowledge" as stated on the death certificate. It is merely an opinion reflecting one's best medical judgment.
3. The attending physician is not willing to sign the death certificate. Physicians are sometimes under the erroneous impression that if they refuse to sign a death certificate the Medical Examiner must do so. This is not the case. Jurisdiction will not be accepted unless the death falls under circumstances described in Florida Statute 406.11. Various professional and legal penalties apply when physicians refuse to carry out their responsibilities.