Sun 23 Apr 2023 — 3 min

Sample Death Certificate

In an ongoing case concerning a trans person’s death, the coroner has agreed that a Gender Recognition Certificate is unnecessary in order to record the correct name and gender of a trans person on their death certificate.

A joint note agreed to by the coroner, seen by Trans Safety Network, submits that the Court can gender and name trans people correctly on their death certificate without requiring a deed poll or a GRC.

The note highlights that the Court can record a different name on a death certificate from a birth certificate if the evidence suggests that the deceased was known by a different name at the time of their death. That is because a death certificate is a historical record of the facts at the time of the death in the same way that a birth certificate is a historical record of the facts at the time of the birth. The two do not need to match.

Quoting Jervis on Coroners:

The identity of a person is in [UK] law not a matter of precise legal formality, as it is in some legal systems, where you are registered at birth with a name which you can never change, or at least only with difficulty. Instead, you are who you and others say you are [...] the identity of the deceased is not a matter of scientific certainty. It is simply something that can be easily established on the available evidence. By what name (whether or not it was the original one) was this person known at the time of death? If the evidence is that the deceased was known in England at the time of death as AB, it does not matter that, at another time or in another country, they were known as CD. There is no need to agonise over whether AB or CD is the “legally correct” name.

Therefore, it is not necessary for a person to have changed their name by deed poll in order for the name they were known by to be recorded on their death certificate. Following this, the joint note submits that the Court can record a different sex on a person’s death certificate if the evidence shows on the balance of probabilities that that is how the deceased was known. This was agreed by the coroner.

This provides confirmation of the argument made by Trans Safety Network following the death of Brianna Ghey that there is no legal obligation for coroners to record a trans person without a GRC’s sex as listed on their birth certificate. This is despite coroners having wrongly claimed that such an obligation exists in previous cases.

Trans Safety Network welcomes this clarity on an important point of law, and for the right of trans people to be treated with dignity in death.