Temporary exemptions for Cremation
Ministry of Health website information.

On 25th April 2020, the Minister of Health authorised medical referees to permit cremations to be carried out without complying with regulation 7 of the Cremation Regulations 1973.
- i.e. there are certain conditions where the deceased does not have to be examined after death, before cremation.
This exemption was issued under the provisions of the Epidemic Preparedness Notice 2020 (issued under section 5(3) of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006).
It applies to deaths in a rest home, residential care facility, or other long-term in-patient facility.

The Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19) Notice 2020 came into force on 25 March 2020 and includes:

The notice expires on the day that is 3 months after its commencement, unless—
- an earlier expiry date is notified; or
- the notice is renewed under section 7 of that Act.


The requirements before the Notice:
The Cremation Regulations 1973 require the permission of a medical referee before a cremation can occur.
Regulation 7 requires the medical referee to check the validity of the relevant certificates.
Schedule 1 requires a certifying medical or nurse practitioner to examine and identify the body after death for certificates Form AB and Form B.


The exemption
This addresses the concern that entering a restricted facility adds infection risks for both practitioners and residents during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Regulation 12(b) of the Cremation Regulations 1973 allows the Minister of Health to authorise medical referees to permit cremations to be carried out without complying with regulation 7 for cremations where completion of a Cremation Certificate by a certifying practitioner would increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
In practical terms, the certifying practitioner does not have to enter the facility to view the deceased to complete a cremation certificate.
This authorisation applies to deaths in rest homes, residential care facilities, and other long-term in-patient facilities where the medical history and current conditions of the deceased are known by the medical or nurse practitioner.


Extra requirements for the exemption

1. Trusted Identification.
- A medical referee must receive advice from a trusted source, who has a reasonable level of assurance of the cause of death to verify the identity of the deceased and that the deceased died of natural causes, in lieu of a certifying practitioner providing a Cremation Certificate.
- Medical referees have discretion in determining who constitutes a trusted source, but that the identity, contact details, and position of the trusted source must be recorded.
- The Funeral Directors' Association of NZ has provided a form for this purpose: Trusted ID to be completed by the funeral director.
2. Certification of no biomechanical aid.
- The funeral director must confirm whether there is a biomechanical aid present in the body. This can be certified via an embalmer's certificate.


NOTE
This provision does not cover deaths in acute public hospitals nor in hospices.
There is no change to section 46B of the Burial & Cremation Act
- if the certifying practitioner did not attend the deceased in the last illness, and the attending practitioner is unavailable, the current B&C Act s 46B(3) still requires the certifying doctor doctor to view the deceased after death.