Electronic Death Registration

Electronic Death Registration System: how does your state rate?

Find out if your state has Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS), and if it is accessible to families. If not, then they are being denied full rights to care for their deceased, and this needs to be fixed. Find out what you can do to make EDRS open to families in your state.

Every state in this country has either a complete Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS) in place right now, is in the process of formulating one, or is contemplating creating one. In research recently done by the Legislative Committee, we have found that, for the most part, only medical examiners, funeral directors, doctors and other official entities are given access to this system. If families do not have access to the system or their access is difficult to find, they are, in effect, being denied their right to care for their deceased. Home vigils/wakes are still legal in every state, but if a family wants to do their own paperwork and transport their loved one to a cemetery or crematory, and the system is set up to cut them out, they will be required to pay for the services of a funeral director. We can add those states, almost all, to the list of “restrictive” states.

We believe that the only reason why some states have included families is because a citizen (you/us) has contacted the state system and worked with them to create language that allows families to claim their rights.

Map of U.S. shows which states have EDRS
National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information System

Here is an initial list the Legislative Committee has found of EDRS policies in various states. We would love to add your state to the list. Please do some research, find out where your state stands and let us know. You can email the Chair, Sarah Crews ,crews.sarah.j@gmail.com.

Best States – the site is user-friendly and accessible to an average person. The information for families is clearly stated and easy to follow.

Average States – the site is accessible to the average person. Families are clearly acknowledged. The information is written in more difficult language and is more difficult to follow.

Difficult States – the site does not include any information about families.

Call to Action

The EDRS in your state may inadvertantly be preventing families from caring for their own dead by denying them access to death certificates and burial transit permits. This new system allows state and town officials (medical examiners, doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, funeral directors, town clerks) to file death certificates directly into an electronic system. Unless specifically written these new regulations may effectively deny families access to a paper death certificate and burial transit permit.

The EDRS is already set up in most states. The system as a whole did not take into account the needs of a family wanting to care for their loved ones after death without the involvement of a funeral director. In 10 states restrictive laws already exist. In the other 40 states where it is legal for families to care for their own dead a new regulation like the EDRS cannot supercede the families’ rights. However, if not explicitly written into the regulations families may be turned away at government institutions and by officials/doctors/medical examiners/hospitals/nursing homes etc. who are completely unaware of the existing laws which protect families’ rights.

We as advocates for a family’s right to choose need to:

  • research how the system works in our individual states (just search online for Electronic Death Registration System in your state)

If the language to protect a families’ right to care for their own is not explicit we should:

  • contact our state senators and representatives, educate them about family-directed after death care and how the EDRS may have unintended
    consequences which prevent family members from caring for their loved ones after death. We’ve made suggestions for contacting your legislatures.
  • ask these legislators to call the appropriate officials in EDRS, Vital Statistics and Dept. of Health and Human Services (names may be different in your state) and ask for clarification of the policy for allowing families to receive a paper death certificate and burial permit.

We should insist that clarifying language be added to the EDRS as well as any Department of Public Health description of after death care on their website. Here is a link to the Vermont Dept. of Health and Human Services with the clear language that is needed.

As you prepare to meet with your legislators please go to the legislative page of the NHFA website or to the Funeral Consumers Alliance website, www.funerals.org Both sites have a step-by-step descriptions of how to approach your legislators to ensure the best outcome of your meeting.