HC Deb 23 June 1890 vol 345 cc1623-4
DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board whether his attention has been called to the fact that, according to the last Report of the Registrar General, in addition to 25,132 cases in which the cause of death was "ill defined or not specified" in medical certificates of death, 15,747 deaths occurred in England and Wales, in 1888, in which the cause of death was not certified either by a medical man or coroner; and whether, taking that fact into consideration, Government will consent to the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the sufficiency of the existing law as to the disposal of the dead, for securing an accurate record of the causes of death in all cases, and specially for detecting them where death may have been due to poison, violence, or criminal neglect?


There were 25,132 deaths in 1888 in which the cause of death was "ill-defined or not specified," and 15,747 deaths in which the cause was not certified by either a medical man or coroner; but it is not the fact that the 25,132 deaths were all of them cases in which there was a medical certificate, or that they were in addition to the deaths in which there was no certificate forthcoming. The great bulk of the 15,747 uncertified deaths are, I am informed by the Registrar General, included in the 25,132 deaths in which the cause was either not specified or not sufficiently defined for due classification. As regards the 15,747 deaths without medical or coroner's certificate, it must not be assumed that these were all cases in which there was no medical attendance. Many of them were, doubtless, cases which had been attended by unregistered medical practitioners, who cannot give legally recognisable certificates. The proportion both of deaths in which the cause is ill-defined or not specified and of uncertified deaths has been gradually diminishing. Thus, in the years 1881–1887 the proportion of the ill-defined deaths averaged 5.7 per cent, of all deaths registered, but in 1888 it was only 4.9 per cent. As regards uncertified deaths, the proportion in 1879 was 4.7 per cent., and this fell gradually, until, in 1888, it was 3.1 per cent. As I stated in reply to a previous question of the hon. Member's, the Registrar General has good reason to know that a very large proportion of the cases of uncertified deaths are reported by Registrars to Coroners prior to their registration, although those officers, in the exercise of their discretion, decide that it is unnecessary to hold inquests. It is too late to entertain the question of the appointment of a Select Committee this Session, but I will promise the hon. Member that the question of the expediency of such a Committee shall be carefully considered during the recess.