STEP 1) Obtaining Medical Certification of Death
- When death is expected
Death in Hospital/Nursing Home - The Medical Certifier portion of the Death Certificate will be completed in
accordance with the medical institutions policy and provided to Bureau of Vital Statistics (BVS) by electronic filing.
Death at Home under Hospice Care - Note time of death so this information can be given to the Hospice nurse.
Call Hospice so they can send a nurse who will officially pronounce the death and contact the attending physician.
The attending physician will complete the Medical Certifier portion of the Death Certificate and file it electronically
with Bureau of Vital Statistics.
- When death is unexpected
Death at Hospital - The Medical Certifier portion of the Death Certificate will be completed by the appropriate
medical staff and filed electronically with Bureau of Vital Statistics. If cause of death cannot be determined at the
hospital the case must be referred to the Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI) who will complete the Medical
Certifier portion of the Death Certificate and file it electronically with Bureau of Vital Statistics.
Death at Home - If cause of death cannot be provided by decedent’s physician the body must be taken to OMI who
will complete the Medical Certifier portion of the Death Certificate and file it electronically with Bureau of Vital
Other - OMI will complete the Medical Certifier portion after determining cause of death from autopsy or if cause
of death is “Pending” and issue the Death Certificate to the person acting as funeral service practitioner.
STEP 2) Completing the Death Certificate
The person acting as funeral service practitioner must contact the local Public Health Office or the Office of NM
Vital Records & Health Statistics at 505 (827-0121) located at 1105 S. St Frances Dr., PO Box 26110, Santa Fe, NM
87502-6110 and provide the decedent’s personal information required for the Death Certificate.
This information will electronically be joined with the Medical Certifier portion to complete the Death Certificate.
When providing information for completing the Death Certificate it is extremely important all entries are correct.
Changes may not be made to a completed certificate.
Assistance in compiling the correct information, or a copy of the NM Department of Health Death Certificate Manual,
can be obtained from the Office of NM Vital Records & Health Statistics, Epidemiology & Response Division, (505)
827-2532, located at 1105 St. Francis Dr., Santa Fe, NM 87505. The completed Death Certificate must be filed with
the local or state registrar within 5 days of the date of death and prior to final disposition.
NMSA 24-14-20-B. Death registration. The funeral service practitioner or person acting as a funeral service practitioner who first
assumes custody of a dead body shall file the death certificate. He shall obtain the personal data from the next of kin or the best
qualified person or source available. He shall obtain the medical certification of cause of death.
(Note: Effective 15 October 2007, the Bureau of Vital Statistics for the state of New Mexico incorporated an electronic filing system
for medical certification and registration of deaths)
NMSA 24-14-20-A. Death registration. A death certificate for each death that occurs in this state shall be filed within five days
after the death and prior to final disposition. The death certificate shall be registered by the state registrar.
NMSA 24-14-20-A.(1) Death registration. If the place of death is unknown but the dead body is found in this state, a death
certificate shall be filed with a local registrar within ten days after the occurrence. The place where the body is found shall be shown
as the place of death. If the date of death is unknown, it shall be approximated by the state medical investigator.
NMSA 24-14-24-A. Extension of time. The department may, by regulation and upon conditions as it may prescribe to assure
compliance with the purposes of the Vital Statistics Act, provide for the extension of the periods prescribed in Sections 24-14-20, 24-
14-22 and 24-14-23 NMSA 1978 for the filing of death certificates, spontaneous fetal death reports, medical certifications of cause of
death and for the obtaining of burial-transit permits in cases where compliance with the applicable prescribed period would result in
STEP 3) Obtain Burial Transit Permit
You will need a Transit Permit issued by the state or local registrar if you plan to transport the body yourself. You
should have a copy of the completed Death Certificate in-hand when obtaining the Transit Permit. OMI will provide
a transportation permit for removals from their facility.
NMSA 24-14-23-B. Permits; authorization for final disposition. A burial-transit permit shall be issued by the state registrar or a
local registrar for those bodies which are to be transported out of the state for final disposition or when final disposition is being
made by a person other than a funeral service practitioner or direct disposer.
NMSA 24-14-24-B. Extension of time. Regulations of the department may provide for the issuance of a burial-transit permit prior
to the filing of a death certificate upon conditions designed to assure compliance with the purposes of the Vital Statistics Act in cases
herer compliance with the requirement that the certificate be filed prior to the issuance of the permit would result in undue hardship.
Step 4) Determine Disposition and Type of Memorial Service
Will the body be Cremated or Buried? Either case may require a container. Will there be a memorial service or
family care of the body prior to disposition?
Cremation - Obtain a cremation permit from the state medical investigator. If the decedent did not provide written
authorization for cremation then cremation will be authorized in accordance with NMSA 24-12A-2. Ensure you
make arrangements with a crematory that will accept bodies from family members.
NMSA 24-14-23-E. Permits; authorization for final disposition. A permit for cremation of a body shall be required prior to the
cremation. The permit shall be issued by the state medical investigator to a licensed funeral service practitioner, direct disposer or
any other person who makes the arrangements for final disposition.
NMSA 24-12A-2. No written instructions; priority of others to decide disposition. If a decedent has left no written instructions
regarding the disposition of his remains, the following persons in the order listed shall determine the means of disposition, not to be
limited to cremation, of the remains of the decedent: A. the surviving spouse; B. a majority of the surviving adult children of the
decedent; C. the surviving parents of the decedent; D. a majority of the surviving siblings of the decedent; E. an adult who has
exhibited special care and concern for the decedent, who is aware of the decedent's views and desires regarding the disposition of his
body and who is willing and able to make a decision about the disposition of the decedent's body; or F. the adult person of the next
degree of kinship in the order named by New Mexico law to inherit the estate of the decedent.
Burial - Make arrangements with a cemetery that will accept bodies from family members. If the burial is to occur
on personal property contact the County Manager’s Officer to identify requirements specific to your area/county.
Step 5) Care of the Body
The body of the decedent may be left undisturbed for up to 24 hours. If final disposition has not occurred within 24
hours, the body must be embalmed or refrigerated to a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Refrigeration at
home may be accomplished with the use of sufficient packs of dry ice surrounding the body. There is no federal or
local law that requires embalming under normal circumstances. Embalming or a sealed casket may be required if
death was the result of a contagious disease. You should consult the Office of the Medical Investigator under such
Title 24-14-20: Death Registration.
The funeral service practitioner or person acting as a funeral service practitioner who first
assumes custody of the dead body shall file the death certificate.
Title 24-14-23: Permits
A burial-transit permit shall be issued by the state registrar or a local registrar for those
bodies which are to be transported out of the state for final disposition or when final
disposition is being made by a person other than a funeral service practitioner or direct
A permit for cremation of a body shall be required prior to cremation. The permit shall be
issued by the state medical investigator to a licensed funeral service practitioner, direct
disposer or any other person who makes the arrangements for final disposition.
PLEASE NOTE: The information presented below is offered by THE OLD PINE
BOX as a guide for families wishing to exercise their right to care for their own dead. We
have made every effort to be as accurate and helpful as possible but cannot guarantee all of
this information has remained unchanged to this date. Families wishing to direct their own
funerals should always contact, as far in advance as possible, whatever authorities will be
This information was derived mainly from New Mexico Statutes and the New Mexico
Department of Health Death Certificate Manual, revised November 2005. It was reviewed
by The Office of the Medical Investigator for the state of New Mexico in August 2007.
Additional information can be obtained from "Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way
of Death" by Lisa Carlson and Joshua Slocum, published by and available from Upper
IMPORTANT: Caring for your own dead is a precious but not necessarily undeniable right. No state has yet
made it illegal to perform family directed funerals. However, eight states presently have statutes in place which are
contradictory or have been intentionally amended to make family directed funerals difficult. If you wish to care for
your own dead it is vital that you research and understand fully your responsibilities and that you follow all
procedures correctly. Careless handling and irresponsible execution of this responsibility not only dishonors the
deceased, but may prompt legislation that could deny others this most basic familial right.
The legal right to care for your own dead in the state of New Mexico is found in the
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