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Association having the matter in hand to state also that it had been approved by this committee, but your committee did not feel it wise to permit that statement to be made in view of the fact that the form of bill has not yet been presented to the Conference, and your committee has felt that until that should be done it had no right to permit the impression to be conveyed that this particular form of bill had in any manner received the approval of this Conference. Your committee, however, submits this form of bill with its approval as its answer to the trust committed to it by the Conference at its last meeting. It is glad to be able to state that the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association as its meeting held in June, 1908, adopted the following resolution:
Resolved, That the draft of a model law for state registration of births and deaths be approved as recommended by the Committee on Medical Legislation.
Resolved, That the Bureau of Legislation he authorized to make such minor changes as may seem advisable in co-operation with the Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, the American Public Health Association, and the Bureau of the Census, and to urge the adoption of such legislation in non-registration states.
The bill is very similar in form to one adopted by the State of Pennsylvania in 1905 as amended in 1907. The Pennsylvania act of 1905 was found to be a very vast improvement over any law theretofore enacted, but when subjected to the test of practical operations under it, certain minor defects in the law became apparent, which were speedily remedied by the act of 1907. The states of Virgina and Kentucky in endeavoring to compile an effective law dealing with this subject found themselves unable to materially improve upon the Pennsylvania act, and bills were presented to the legislatures of both of these states at their last sessions following very closely the provisions of that law, the Virginia bill, however, providing merely for the registration of deaths and not of births. The State of Ohio has enacted a law almost identical with that of Pennsylvania and which, with very slight modifications is the same bill which is herewith presented for the consideration of this Conference. The Ohio act was approved by the governor on May 5, 1908.
In an interesting report prepared by the Committee on “Demography and Statistics in their Sanitary Relation," of the American Public Health Association, that committee sets forth what in its judgment are the essential requirements of a law for the registration of deaths and the collection of mortality statistics. This report was signed and approved by the following gentlemen :
John S. Fulton, M. D., Chairman, Secretary State Board of Health, and Registrar of Vital Statistics, Maryland.
Samuel W. Abbott, M. D., Secretary State Board of Health, Massachusetts.
Charles V. Chapin, M. D., Registrar of Vital Statistics, Providence, R. I.
Cressy L. Wilbur, M. D., Chief of Division of Vital Statistics, Department of State, Michigan.
William C. Woodward, M. D., Health Officer and Registrar of Vital Statistics, District of Columbia.
William H. Welch, M. D., LL. D., President State Board of Health, Maryland.
Moses N. Baker, Chairman Committee on Municipal Statistics, American Economic Association. Approved by:
William R. Merriam, Director of the Census.
Carroll D. Wright, Commissioner of Labor. The report is so able and the analysis of the essential provisions of such a law relating to deaths so good, that your committee deems it proper to insert this classification of necessary provisions in this report and to say that in preparing the draft of a law herewith submitted it has endeavored to keep in mind these requirements.
NECESSARY PROVISIONS. A registration law to fill the requirements noted and to be effective in operation must include the following provisions :
1. DEATHS MUST BE REGISTERED IMMEDIATELY AFTER THEIR
OCCURRENCE. All deaths should be registered immediately after their occurrence in the jurisdiction where they occur (city, village, town or township, or other primary division). By immediate registration is meant registration before the interment or removal of the body.
NOTE.— Without immediate record at the time and place of death there can be no accurate and complete registration. The farther the time and place of the record are removed from the time and place of the occurrence, the greater will be the inevitable error. Wherever any latitude beyond the date of burial has been allowej, the registration of deaths has always resulted in failure. The collection of statistics by any sort of post-funeral enumeration can not possibly be better than fragmentary, and therefore, of little use to the sanitarian. The records lose by delay their chief importance to the citizen in the protection of his private interests; for records admitted in court as prima facie evidence have greatest weight when they have been made at the time and place of death and by competent persons having first-hand knowledge of the facts.
2. CERTIFICATES OF DEATH SHOULD BE REQUIRED. The primary record of a death should consist of a certificate of prescribed form including, as a minimum requirement, all of the data necessary for the mortality statistics of the United States Census.
NOTE.—The items required for the census statistics should appear in every instance, because each of them is essential to the compilation of uniform tables for the different states and cities. To these may be added such other items as may be required by peculiar local conditions. Experience has shown that definite information in excess of that called for by the approved form of certificate is difficult to obtain, while less will not serve the reasonable needs of statisticians or of the citizens who consult the records.
3. BURIAL OR REMOVAL PERMITS ARE ESSENTIAL TO THE
ENFORCEMENT OF THE LAW. No dead body should be removed from the place of death, interred, cremated, or otherwise disposed of, unless such action is authorized by a burial or removal permit, based upon a satisfactory certificate of death and signed by the local registrar.
NOTE.—The requirement that a certificate shall be filed for each death can not be enforced in practice except by the additional provision that no body shall be removed or interred without a permit issued by the local registrar after receiving and approving the death certificate.
The burial permit is the sine qua non of registration. It implies that the death has been accounted for according to law and it fasteps the record to the time and place of the event. A registration law without a burial or removal permit provision is scarcely better than no law.
The precise form for this blank is not important, the chief requirements being that it shall identify the decedent; give the place, date and cause of death; and be attested by the signature of the local registrar as evidence that the death certificate has been filed and recorded. A good example of a complete form, used in Michigan, is shown in the appendix.
4. EFFICIENT LOCAL REGISTRARS ARE NECESSARY. There should be an efficient local registrar in each city, village, lown or township, or other local political district, whose duty it should be to receive and approve certificates of death and to issue burial or removal permits for all deaths that occur in his jurisdiction. He should be properly compensated, and should be required to enforce the law in his own district under penalty for neglect. He should also be required to make returns to the central registration office, and the time and manner of making such returns should be expressly designated by law.
NOTE.- Local registrars should be selected solely with reference to their special fitness for the work, and a competent and efficient registrar should remain undisturbed in his position as long as practicable. Inefficient or negligent registrars should be subject to removal by the central registration authority.
It is highly desirable that local registrars take an active interest in the work of registration to insure that their records are full, complete and readily available for consultation. They may also greatly advance the purposes of registration in their communities by proper explanation.
5. THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR REPORTING DEATHS TO THE LOCAL
REGISTRAR SHOULD BE FIXED. The responsibility for obtaining and filing the original record of death with the local registrar should be fixed by the law. The best results are obtained when this duty is imposed upon the undertaker or other person having charge of the interment, removal, or other disposition of the body. He should therefore be made primarily responsible, under penalty for neglect, for presenting the certificate of death and obtaining the burial or removal permit before the body is disposed of.
The attending physician, coroner, health officer, or other official, should be required to certify the cause of death and to furnish, upon demand, any other information he may possess that is required to complete the record of the case. The personal data relating to the decedent may be supplied by any member of the family, next of kin, landlord or person in charge of the premises on which the death occurred, and they, and all other persons cognizant of the facts, should be required to furnish such information to the undertaker, physician, or other person preparing the return. The name and address of the person furnishing the personal data should appear in the return.
NOTE.—The undertaker is made primarily responsible for obtaining and filing the record because it is he who proposes to remove the natural evidence of death, that is, the body. He, however, is obliged to depend upon others for a correct statement of the facts and there
fore all persons having knowledge of the case should be required to assist in the completion of the return.
While the undertaker's responsibility is primary, it is not exclusive, and the state may lay correlative responsibilities upon any or all persons concerned in the removal or burial of a human body, e. g., upon the next of kin, the householder, physician, minister, sexton, express agent, transportation agent, coroner or any other person controlling or directing, in whole or in part, the removal or burial.
The information as to the cause of death, which is the vital feature of the return, is almost wholly dependent for completeness and accuracy upon the medical knowledge, carefulness and interest of the physician. Hence physicians should make the most exact statement of the cause and should carefully avoid the use of unmeaning terms. By reason of his relations to the family, the physician frequently has accurate knowledge of the personal data required, and in such cases he should see that the facts are correctly stated. There should be perfect co-operation between physicians and undertakers.
6. THE CENTRAL REGISTRATION OFFICE SHOULD HAVE FULL
CONTROL OF THE LOCAL MACHINERY, AND ITS RULES
SHOULD HAVE THE EFFECT OF LAW. The central registration office of the state should have direct supervision and control of all matters relating to local registration. It should be charged with the maintenance of complete records, and with the efficient and uniform enforcement of the law. To this end it should be able to command the assistance of the legal department of the state. It should also be empowered to remove inefficient or negligent local registrars and to appoint others in their stead; to prescribe, print, and distribute the forms of certificates and records for local use; to receive returns from local registrars; and to preserve the records in suitable order for convenient reference.
The rules and regulations promulgated by the central office should be given the force and effect of law.
7. THE TRANSMISSION AND PRESERVATION OF RECORDS SHOULD
BE PROVIDED FOR. A complete, permanent record of each death should be kept in the office of the local registrar and in the central registration office, and provision should be made for indexing the records in strict alphabetical order.
Returns should be made monthly to the central office, and within a certain specified period after the close of each month. This is necessary in order to enable the central office to ascertain the efficiency of local registration, and to scrutinize the certificates and secure corrections, if they are found defective, as soon as possible after the cases are reported.