New online death certificate system takes toll on efficiency, adds to grief

Indianapolis Star
Jan 9, 2011

The first shock was her father’s death the day before New Year’s Eve. But Sonia Ardeel was even more surprised to discover how difficult getting a death certificate — necessary to grant her father’s wish to be cremated — would be.

A new system that transformed the death certificate from a paper document to an electronic record lies behind the nightmare that Ardeel, 40, and her family have experienced. The system, which went into effect Jan. 1, requires funeral homes and doctors to sign up for a four-digit PIN to enter a record.

In announcing its new Indiana Death Registration System, state health officials said the Web-based process would speed up the issuing of death certificates.

But as the case of Robert Martinez, Ardeel’s father, shows, not every doctor has signed up. If the doctor responsible for declaring a patient’s death or the funeral home handling the body is not in the state system, the death certificate likely will be delayed.

For a family in Muncie, the switch to the new system meant a man who died Dec. 24 was not cremated until 14 days later.

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