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Cremation rules tightened in wake of Shipman

Families get right to see medical notes


The rules surrounding cremations are to be modernised to close a loophole which allowed mass murderer Harold Shipman to avoid detection for so long, the government has announced.

The regulations will beef up existing rules which date back to 1930 and are seen as antiquated and confusing.

A key proposal involves the right for families to inspect the medical forms of a loved one before cremation is authorised.

Dame Janet Smith’s Third Shipman Inquiry Report made it clear that many of the forms that GP Harold Shipman completed were completely inaccurate.

Shipman Inquiry

It found that had family members been able to draw the medical referee’s attention to concerns about unexpected symptoms or features of the case, murders could have been stopped earlier.

Shipman, from Hyde in Greater Manchester, murdered more than 200 people over a period of more than 20 years. He was found hanging in his cell at Wakefield Prison in January 2004.

Other recommended changes, which are expected to come into force next year, include a single system of death certification as well as the need to improve the public health oversight of causes of death.


Justice Minister Bridget Prentice said: ‘The death of a loved one has a profound impact on bereaved family and friends. These proposals, which will help improve the services all bereaved people get, are therefore extremely important.

‘The government also remains committed to reform of the coroner system. We hope to bring a Coroners Bill before parliament as soon as time allows. However, other more immediate measures that we can take forward now include strengthening coroners’ powers to make reports to prevent future deaths as well as closer work with the Press Complaints Commission in the reporting of inquests.’

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