Faculty & Clinical Affairs

Alan P. Marco, M.D., M.M.M., Associate Dean
Albert F. Painter Jr., Psy.D., Assistant Dean

Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine
Sponsored Graduate Medical Education Programs
Resident Manual

Item 404
Death Certificates
Revised July 1996

Under Ohio Administrative Code Rule 4731-14-01, only a licensed medical or osteopathic physician can pronounce a person dead. A physician does not have to personally examine the body of the deceased "if a competent observer has recited the facts of the deceased's present medical condition to the physician and the physician is satisfied that death has occurred." (OAC 4731-14-01)

Competent observers are individuals who by virtue of their training and licensure are able to assist the physician in making the determination of death. A competent observer includes any of the following individuals: a licensed registered nurse or practical nurse, an EMT or paramedic, an intern, a resident or another licensed physician, a clinical fellow, a chiropractor, an embalmer or funeral director who completed coursework in vital signs or patient assessment, a physician's assistant or a licensed podiatrist. Competent observers are not permitted to make a pronouncement of death.

The physician most familiar with the case should sign the death certificate. If that physician is not licensed to practice medicine in Ohio, the ultimate responsibility for death certification will be the program director.

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