Supreme Court says govt must simplify COVID-19 death certification process

‘What is the remedy in the case of those given certificates showing some other reason as cause of death’

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Union government what it plans to do in cases of COVID-19 patients whose death certificates cited some other reason for the cause of death.

“What is the remedy in the case of COVID patients who have already been issued death certificates showing some other reason as cause of death”, Justice M.R. Shah, who accompanied Justice Ashok Bhushan on the Bench, asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

The court suggested that the government should simplify the process for certification COVID-19 deaths. It asked the government whether the reason of death could be given as COVID-19 in the certificate if the family could produce a COVID-19 report, no matter whether the patient died in a hospital or outside. The court pointed out that some patients were not even given their medical records.

Penal consequences

Mr. Mehta reiterated the government’s stand that any lapse in stating COVID-19 as the cause of demise in a death certificate would have penal consequences for those found responsible, including the certifying doctor.

In its affidavit on Sunday, the Centre said: “It is mandated that any death resulting from Covid-19 shall have to be so certified i.e. as Covid death, failing which, everyone responsible, including the certifying doctor, shall be responsible for penal consequences”.

The government stated that deaths with the diagnosis of COVID-19, irrespective of comorbidities, have to be certified as pandemic deaths. The only exception to the rule was when there was a clear alternative cause of death, for example, accidental trauma, poisoning, etc.

The Supreme Court recently told the Centre that the death certificates of those who died of COVID-19 often do not reveal that fact. “The death certificates of persons who die from COVID-19 in hospitals show the reason as lung or heart problem or something else,” Justice Shah had addressed Mr. Mehta.

“All deaths with the diagnosis of COVID-19, irrespective of co-morbidities, are to be classified as deaths due to COVID-19,” the Centre had clarified in the affidavit.

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