Government shakes up cremation rules

The government is introducing new rules for cremation in a bid to prevent another spate of Harold Shipman-type killings.

The new measures will give relatives the right to inspect medical forms before cremation takes place, starting from 1 January 2009.

Justice minister, Bridget Prentice said: “The right of families to inspect the medical forms for cremation of their relatives, for the first time in history, is a significant reform.”

The change in regulation stems from recommendations made by Dame Janet Smith who led the inquiry into the Harold Shipman case.

Shipman was Britain’s most prolific serial killer, killing an estimated 250 people using his privileged position as a GP.

This led to an overhaul of the UK’s legal structure concerning health care and medicine and the new cremations rules are an upshot of this.

The new legislation is designed to prevent this type of tragedy happening again as relatives of the deceased can raise the alarm if they have suspicions.

Ms Prentice added: “I am pleased that families whose loved ones have died will be able to raise any concerns they may have about the cause of death.”

The new regulations are only a stop gap for new legislation for death certificates which will replace the current outdated system.