The Department of Public Health’s Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS) collects two types of Vital Records through the web-based Vitals Information Partnership (VIP). For more information about the VIP Project and an overview of the Birth and Death Modules visit the VIP Project Overview Page.
The registration of a death record involves state and local government, medical staff, funeral homes, and, in some situations, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Funeral homes can create the death record or access the death record in the VIP Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS) after the certifying physician or medical examiner creates the record. Funeral directors are responsible for completing the personal data items for the decedent and working with the local board of health or its agent in the city or town where the death occurred in order to obtain a burial permit prior to the disposition of the decedent. In addition, the funeral home ensures that the medical certifier has completed their portion of the death record.
Funeral homes will complete their processing of the death record online, or they will work through a Massachusetts funeral home that has an online account to perform the data entry.
The medical certifier initiates the death certificate process and is primarily responsible for documenting and certifying the decedent’s cause(s) of death within 24 hours of the event. Physicians, nurse practitioners (within the scope of their practice), and medical examiners may certify the cause of death. Medical certifiers may certify deaths either online or by a paper-based attestation process.
Medical facilities should facilitate the certification of the death records that occur in their facilities in order to provide the funeral home with a copy of the certified medical portion of the death record for transportation of the decedent.
Medical data entry staff or a physician or a nurse practitioner, can initiate the death certificate process and is primarily responsible for documenting the decedent’s cause(s) of death. The electronic death record should be certified by the medical certifier within 24 hours from the time of death. In some cases, the certification of the electronic death record will need to be completed sooner in order to meet religious obligations.
Long Term Care Facilities
Long term care facilities should coordinate the certification of the death records that occur within their facilities in order to provide the funeral home with a certified medical portion of the death record as soon as possible. Facilities may provide the funeral home with the completed and signed pronouncement form for transportation of the decedent. The current paper pronouncement form is still in use. However, there is an online pronouncement process that can also be accommodated.
Board of Health – Burial Agent
The local board of health or its authorized agent receives a completed death record from the funeral director, reviews the record, issues a burial permit, and releases the record to the clerk for registration.
Burial Agents will complete their processing of the death record online.
The responsibility of the city/town clerk is to examine the death record for any errors or omissions; and upon acceptance, to record the certificate of death in the official records of the community. In addition, the city/town clerk can complete an amendment to correct an error on the registered death record.
The clerk will enter the death record for those families that will not designate a funeral home. The family will designate another representative, often referred to as a Special Designee to perform the role of the funeral director and to work with the city or town clerk to facilitate the entry of the death record into the EDRS.
Clerks will complete their processing of the death record online.
For Families Not Working with a Funeral Home
Families that choose not to work through a funeral home will designate a family representative, often referred to as a Special Designee or Family Designee to perform the role of the funeral director and to work with the medical certifier, city or town clerk, and burial agent to facilitate the entry of the death record into the EDRS.
This information is provided by the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics within the Department of Public Health.