25 Jun 2015

Delays in returning bodies to whānau

8:02 am on 25 June 2015

The Law Commission is calling for whānau to have better, and faster, access to relatives' bodies

The Maori Affairs Select Committee was told yesterday about the commission's findings from its reviews of burial and cremation and the responsibility of coroners.

Commission president Sir Grant Hammond said there were often delays for whānau in seeing the body of their relatives (whanaunga) because a death had yet to be certified.

There was often trouble finding a doctor to certify the death; doctors may be too busy treating sick patients, may be on leave, or might not understand the complex rules around when a death must be referred to a coroner, he said.

Sir Grant said making certifying death easier by allowing some nurses to do it and making the process web-based would help.

He said it was important for whānau to be able to access the tūpāpaku quickly, for both their grieving and tangi processes.

The commission's senior legal and policy adviser, Linda McIver, said there were gaps in legalisation.

"Our report has identified a number of ways in which the current law has some problems in terms of the efficiency of the death certification process, which can produce delays in returning bodies to families and whānau," she said.

"We have examined some of those problems and are making recommendations on how to make the system more efficient and effective."

The recommendations may be taken into consideration in the Coroner's Amendment Bill.