Learning from death certificates

Kenneth McKenzie
Columnist

When I began in the funeral industry, a death certificate was 7” x 8.5” in size. They have now grown to full sheets of paper at 8.5” x 11”. Each state mandates what information is to be placed on a death certificate and what is not. The state periodically updates the information required to be placed on a death certificate. The death certificate is basically a blank screen of fields, each field being numbered with the state.
Many of these fields ask some personal questions, one of which is what the deceased did for a living, for how long, and in what industry. Years ago, thousands of men and women were developing lung cancer, and many of them were non-smokers. Once the State changed the death certificate to also include what the deceased did for a living, a common factor was found. Over and over again the State was noticing more and more people dying of lung cancer and their professions being in the shipyards, construction or automotive industry.
It was discovered that asbestos within these and other industries was the cause of so many people dying. By asking questions, we can better understand mistakes from the past and make our children and their children healthier.
Many people will call the mortuary and request how to obtain an original death certificate. Each of us has one original birth certificate and one original death certificate. When you order an original birth or death certificate, what you are actually paying for, and getting, is a copy of the original with the state and or county seal stating it is a true certified copy. Certified copies are normally needed for real-estate matters, bank accounts, life insurance, or anything where a person’s name must be removed from a deed or releasing monies.

It's a Matter of Life

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