Ronan Maher: Clauses in the Coronavirus Act changed how we record deaths. It’s time to change them back. 

This is an article by journalist Ronan Maher. His Twitter page is

Practically everybody knows, if only indirectly, about the Coronavirus Act (2020), which royally ascended on March the 25th, 2020 and confines us in our homes ever since (save for an hour for exercise a day). Far fewer people realise that it contained two clauses which liberalised the rules for doctors recording deaths and certifying cremations.

The NHS sent guidelines following the changes to medical experts, coroners and undertakers at the end of March, and the various departments they touched (the Ministry of Justice, etc.) quietly updated their websites.

I had a doctor go through them with me, line by line. Afterwards, I sat back, dumbfounded.

It sounded like lawmakers had paved the path for murderous and negligent people, and risked denying a person his or her right to a duty of care in death, by which I mean the dignity of having its cause recorded as accurately as possible.

It appeared to have also put an ominous cloud of doubt over the veracity of the Covid-19 death-toll, undermining assumptions about the lethality of the disease and any subsequent investigations into how the state dealt with the SARS-Covid-19 outbreak.

In sum:

* Ministers suspended a safeguard which has endured for 118 years and contributed to the arrest of doctor-serial killer Harold Shipman: requiring a senior independent doctor to corroborate cremation applications.

* Also suspended is a safeguard put in place after Shipman’s conviction: allowing relatives to inspect Medical Certificates of Cause of Death (MCCDs) and cremation applications.

* Now, if the attending doctor (the one that saw the patient in his or her final illness) is unavailable, any registered doctor (eg. retired doctors who have returned to work, first-years, students fast-tracked to the ‘frontline’) can complete an MCCD, even if that doctor never saw the patient before their death.

* Ministers extended the time in which a doctor should see a patient before that doctor or another registers that patient’s death from 14 to 28 days.

* Now, if no doctor sees a patient within 28 days before death, any registered doctor can certify their death, as long as “they can state the cause of death to the best of their knowledge and belief” and the coroner agrees, an agreement the doctor could make with a phone call. Normally, if a doctor did not see the patient within the allotted time, they send the deceased to the coroner. (Note that coroners are in short supply and also under increased pressure.)

I scanned the news.

On March the 15th, Harry Cole of the Mail on Sunday reported that the government planned to relax rules around ‘death management’, but this story only provided a brief summary of some of the changes.

On April the 6th, GP Online published an article behind a paywall summarising the guidelines as they apply to GPs.

Besides these, all I could find were passing mentions in stories about the Act as a whole. No proper focus on the clauses and what they mean. And no warning bells ringing. It seemed clear to me, and to the doctor who helped translate the medicalise into plain English, that other reporters, columnists, historians, doctors, politicians, researchers, the public at large, and many others, should know what the government had done. So I pitched my story to editors at three national newspapers.

One of them said it was too technical for their readers. The second said that it was the wrong time for such a story. The third said that for them to run with it, I would need to find consequences because of the changes which I could show and prove.

In hindsight, I failed to make it clear in my pitch just what the government had done and why it mattered. They put these rules and safeguards in place to protect vulnerable people and to ensure that data taken from death records, to do things like shape health policy, are as accurate as possible.

Here are some problems:

* The changes risk putting a considerable distance between the person drawing the conclusions and the events themselves, increasing the chances of mistakes and making it likely that patient records will be vague.

* More mistakes and vaguer records are likely to compromise the accuracy of death data gathered on a wider scale, which may be avidly reported to a frightened public.

* The changes (and the demand to do things quicker) create the potential opportunity for medical malpractice; people might attempt to get away with things that they would not have otherwise.

* It would be far harder to catch Shipman if the Coronavirus Act was law when he was murdering his patients.

I am not implying anything sinister here. The government made the changes under pressure to stop doctors from being snowed under with paperwork for the pyramids of bodies Professor Ferguson of Imperial College said to expect, and to ensure they were free to prioritise clinical duties. They also wanted to avoid delays to funerals and the horrific spectacle of the morgues overflowing.

But Professor Ferguson’s models were wrong.

The NHS did not need the Nightingales. SARS-Covid-19 did not overwhelm our health service. And doctors now have plenty of time to perform their normal statutory duties.

So can we have wise legislation reinstated please?

Share this article on social media:

28 thoughts on “Ronan Maher: Clauses in the Coronavirus Act changed how we record deaths. It’s time to change them back. 

  1. we blunder forward, one piece of shambles after another; all set in place by the disastrous IC creatures.

  2. I trawled through the statistics for Scotland and found

    Scotland produces some limited data on care homes. It shows that on 11th April, some 37% of their care homes had had a suspected virus case, rising to 55% as of 6th May. On 5th May, some 42% of care homes had an active case. In total, some 4,193 cases in 593 care homes, with daily new cases running at an average of 130 for the past 3 weeks.That’s close to a third of all cases (12,934 so far). Scotland’s testing regime is not great – around 12,000 tests per million population, compared with 22,600 for the UK as a whole.

    On top of which we have the curious story of the re-classified deaths in the ONS statistics. It seems they want to blame the virus wherever they can get away with it.

    After all failing to prevent a death that might have been avoided might be grounds to sue.

    At another site, a long time commenter reported that she recently lost an elderly relative, with the death certificate already filled out to blame the virus. The relative had a serious underlying condition, and they were able to get the certificate amended to reflect the true cause of death (doubtless passed on to them by a carer who witnessed it). Anecdote is not data of course. But the data would leave Lucy with some ‘splainin to do…

  3. This may be mildly off-topic, but is worth sharing. Dr. Judy Mikovitz has put out a book “Plague of Corruption” about the legal beating she took more than a decade ago over research she was doing with the US Centers for Disease Control. She has featured in a movie “Plandemic” which has repeatedly been removed from YouTube for “violating community standards”. I managed to see Part 1 of “Plandemic” on one of the occasions before YouTube’s censors removed it. In addition to Dr. Mikovitz, it has various other medical professionals questioning the approach to Covid-19.

    One of the assertions Dr. Mikovitz makes is that a change in the law allowed researchers at organizations like the CDC (including Dr. Fauci) to profit personally from patents arising out of research paid for by the taxpayer. (Very odd law! Every contract I have ever signed with commercial companies included a standard term assigning to the company all Intellectual Property which might derive from the work — fair enough, since the company was paying for the work).

    I have no idea whether Dr. Mikovitz is an honest scientist being beaten down by corrupt bureaucrats or whether she is a kook who has been properly discredited and whose story is being censored by the Usual Suspects to avoid confusing us peons — but I am going to get the book and dig a little deeper into this matter.

  4. Gavin, I watched her video. I wouldn’t care to comment on the veracity or otherwise of her views, (she has, apparently, been “in trouble before), but her assertion that Fauci, gave 3.7 million dollars to the Wuhan lab in 2014 for lab research into viruses seems to be verifiable.
    This, under the Obama administration.
    On the surface, she seems a good sort.

  5. All-Cause Mortality Surveillance 07 May 2020 – Week 19 report (up to week 18 data)

    In week 18 2020, statistically significant excess all-cause mortality by week of death was observed overall and by age group in the 15-64 and 65+ year olds and in all regions in England, through the EuroMOMO algorithm

    In the devolved administrations, no statistically significant excess all-cause mortality for all ages was observed for Northern Ireland week 18. Statistically significant excess all-cause mortality for all ages was observed for Scotland in week 16 and in Wales in week 18

    All-cause death registrations (ONS), England and Wales – In week 17 2020, an estimated 21,997 all-cause deaths were registered in England and Wales (source: Office for National Statistics). This is an increase compared to the 22,351 estimated death registrations in week 16 2020

    Excess all-cause (EuroMOMO) mortality in subpopulations, UK
    In week 18 2020 in England, statistically significant excess mortality by week of death above the upper 10 z-score threshold was seen overall

    Statistically significant excess mortality was seen by age group in the 15-64 and 65+ year olds and sub nationally (all ages) in all regions (North East, North West, Yorkshire & Humber, East & West Midlands, East of England, London and South East & West regions) after correcting GRO disaggregate data for reporting delay with the standardised EuroMOMO algorithm (Figure 1). This data is provisional due to the time delay in registration; numbers may vary from week to week

    In the devolved administrations, no statistically significant excess all-cause mortality for all ages was observed for Northern Ireland in week 18. Statistically significant excess all-cause mortality for all ages was observed for Scotland in week 16 and in Wales in week 18.

    Strange Wales now showing excess so many weeks after Scotland: excess non CV-19 Deaths? NI still doing well

    imo Nothing to worry about, lockdown not necessary, still equiv to a bad Flu year with excess deaths increasingly due to Gov & MSM “Stay Home, Save NHS” and hysterical fear-mongering

  6. Silly in hindsight because it distracts from what I’m saying. But glad it cheered you up. Thanks for reading.

  7. It’s a play on words: the Act, which I regard as authoritarian, gained Royal Assent (approval) but ascended above our heads. A regretful attempt at clever wit. Thank you for reading my piece.

  8. In week 17 2020, an estimated 21,997 all-cause deaths were registered in England and Wales (source: Office for National Statistics). This is an increase compared to the 22,351 estimated death registrations in week 16 2020

    ¿Qué? I hope the release is otherwise reliable

  9. A very similar change was made at exactly the same time in the US. No coincidence. In addition US hospitals get $39000 every time they have a cv-19 patient needing ICU treatment. And you thought inflation was under control!

  10. I suspect that the truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle.

    I have watched the video. She isn’t saying anything that sounds kooky. However, what she is saying is, unfortunately, a commonplace in our society – that people who have an interest in some topic, like selling vaccines, are unlikely to listen with an open mind to other proposals to gain herd immunity, or any other approach to solving the problem. Indeed, such people are likely to take advantage of any opportunity to silence such comments. That doesn’t need a pre-planned conspiracy – it just needs people to act in their own self-interest, Which is what all humans do anyway.

    It’s a shame that Facebook, Youtube, Google et al are so ready to close down any dissenting point of view – but then it’s in their collective interest to do what makes establishment figures happy….

  11. I saw that. But when i went to comment about it, they had edited it back to the correct figure….

  12. P.S. Note that the video I refer to above was an interview with Judy Mikovitz. I have since watched “Plandemic” – which IS kooky. Amongst other things a claim is made that 5G radiation poisons our cells, and our immune system then pushes that poison out in the form of a virus. Which, to put it most charitably, does not conform to current thinking about virus replication in any way.

    Still doesn’t mean that videos like “Plandemic” should be banned from viewing,. however. How are people going to gain a critical facility unless they exercise it?

  13. Coronavirus look like exosomes. It’s quite possible exosomes are created in response to 5G frying. (Before you ask, google exosomes!)

  14. Thank you for turning the spotlight on the way the process for medical certification of death has been relaxed as a result of Covid-19.

    The problem of dodgy medical certification of death is not new. Eight years ago The Guardian reported that a study for the Office of National Statistics (ONS), suggested that at least 1/5th of deaths may have been inaccurately certified by doctors.

    In 2005, following the Shipman Inquiry, a national system of medical examiners was proposed and in 2009 the Medical Examiner role was confirmed in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 to provide independent scrutiny of all deaths not referred to a coroner.

    The establishment of Medical Examiner role proceeded at a glacial pace with the role established by way of a phased roll out for deaths in secondary care by the end of March 2020 and for all deaths by the end of March 2021.

    I wonder if the National Medical Examiner, Dr Alan Fletcher is ok with the way the Coronavirus Act changed the recording of deaths and whether he is content for the changes to remain in place indefinitely.

Comments are closed.