Certifying for cremation: must the certifying practitioner see the person before death?
In legal terms (the Burial & Cremation Act) the issue is whether the practitioner "attended" the deceased in the "last illness."
  • This was an absolute requirement up until 2009. The regulations were changed in 2009 (and amended in 2018 to include nurse practitioners). Now a doctor or nurse practitioner can certify a cremation (Form B) without having seen the person before death, so long as
  • - the practitioner has viewed the body AFTER death and
  • - only if all the practitioners who attended the person in the last illness before death are unavailable, under the conditions outlined in the section on Professional Information, and
  • - the certifying practitioner has read the clinical notes
  • Before 2009, the opening statement on Form B (the practitioner’s certificate) read: “Having attended the deceased before and seen and identified the body after death, I give the following answers…
  • Since 2018, the updated wording is: “As a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner who is required or permitted by section 46B or 46C(1) of the Burial and Cremation Act 1964 to give a doctor’s certificate (as defined in section 2(1) of that Act) for the death, and who has seen and identified the body after death, I give the following answers to the questions set out below ...”

Overseas Death: can the body be cremated in New Zealand?

  • Yes, so long as equivalent certificates are issued from authorities in the country where the person died. This should be arranged via a Funeral Director and the crematorium - the paperwork is complex.
  • Relevant legislation: Cremation Regulations 1973 s7(7):
  • In the case of a person who has died in any place outside New Zealand, the Medical Referee may accept a declaration containing the particulars required by form A of Schedule 1, if it purports to have been made before any person having authority in that place to administer an oath or take a declaration, and he may accept certificates in the said form B or the said form E or certificates which, in his opinion, are substantially equivalent thereto, signed by any person shown to his satisfaction to possess qualifications substantially equivalent to those required by these regulations to be possessed by any person giving any such certificate in New Zealand.
  • Minimum requirements: paperwork must still be checked by a Medical Referee in New Zealand - so should have a certified English translation if documentation is in a foreign language. The absence (or removal) of a pacemaker must be certified.

Pacemaker & Biomechanical aids: does this include artificial joints?
  • The only concern is any device that might explode in the high heat of the cremator. By definition, this means any battery-powered device - which must be removed prior to cremation.
  • Examples of battery-powered implants include pacemakers, Internal Cardiac Defibrillators (ICDs) and Nerve Stimulators
  • Other inert implants (without a battery) can be left in place. This includes artificial joints, Portacaths, metal splints.
  • See Professional information.

Stillbirth: how is this defined?
  • A fetus that died in the womb before being delivered. The fetus must weigh at least 400 gm and/or be older than 20 weeks gestation (i.e. the mother must have been pregnant for at least 20 weeks) to fit this definition.
  • If the baby breathed or had a pulse at any stage after being delivered, it is not classified as a stillbirth. Generally it should be certified as a Neonatal Death. See Professional Information.

Donation of bodies to science (Bequests)
  • Relates to a person who has requested before death that his or her body be available for teaching purposes at a Medical School.
  • The process of accepting and managing bequests is governed by the Human Tissue Act (2008) and is carried out under the formal authority of the Inspector of Anatomy from the New Zealand Police.
  • A death certificate must be completed before the university can accept the body.
  • Cremations in Auckland are usually performed at Mangere Lawn Cemetery.
  • Further information from Auckland University: link