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Death rules must be modernised

Professor Aneez Esmail says the Government has missed an opportunity to modernise the process of death certification as part of the Coroner's Reform Bill.

Professor Esmail, who was medical adviser to the Shipman Inquiry and is a GP in Manchester, said plans to allow greater patient involvement in coroners' investigations would improve the service for families, but archaic death certification forms routinely led to doctors stating the cause of death incorrectly.

He said he had seen examples where doctors had put 'exhaustion' as the cause of death because they had copied the example given on the form.

Professor Esmail , professor of general practice at the University of Manchester, said: 'The form was designed in the 1920s and the language used is appropriate to the 1920s. It's just nonsense now.

' Reforming certification would enable doctors to write more accurately. For example, ask about the facts leading up to the death and you would be in a better position to determine the cause.'

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