ILLINOIS - DEATH CERTIFICATES

March 19, 2008

Illinois state laws and regulations that affect your medical practice

1. What criteria may a physician use to declare a pronouncement of death?

In Illinois, a person is legally dead if he or she has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of total brain functions, according to the usual and customary standards of medical practice, or (2) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, according to usual and customary standards of medical practice.

2. When may a physician declare a pronouncement of death, based on neurological criteria?

The Illinois Anatomical Gift Act defines death, based on neurological criteria, as “the irreversible cessation of total brain function, according to the usual customs and standards of medical practice.”

755 ILCS 50/1-10

The Illinois Health Care Surrogate Act defines death, based on neurological criteria as “an irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem.”

755 ILCS 40/60

The courts have often found neurological death where there is an irreversible cessation of brain function according to standards of practice.

In Re Estate of Sewart, 602 N.E.2d 1277 (1991)

3. What are the criteria and testing for an establishment of brain death?

Although Illinois courts have declined to establish finite criteria for determining brain death, brain death may be established in accordance with usual and customary standards of medical practice. However, courts have found that when circulatory and respiratory functions have ceased, only to be mechanically maintained, and there is an “irreversible cessation of total brain functions” a determination of brain death is proper.

Janus v. Tarasewicz, 482 N.E.2d 418 (1985)

4. What information must be on the death certificate?

Each death occurring in Illinois shall be registered by filing a death certificate with the local registrar in the district in which the death occurred or the body was found, within 7 days after such death, except when the death is subject to an investigation by the coroner or the medical examiner.

The funeral director who assumes custody of a dead body is responsible for filing the death certificate. The death certificate must contain the following information:

(a) The name, relationship and address of the person supplying the deceased’s personal information;

(b) The date, place and method of final disposition; and

(c) The funeral director’s signature and address.

The funeral director shall then present the certificate to the person responsible for completing the medical certification of the cause of death.

410 ILCS 535/18 (2005)

Copyright © Kern Augustine Conroy and Schoppmann, P.C. Used with permission.

Updated 2008