What does unnatural traffic mean?

What happens when a person dies an unnatural death?

  • Duty to notify in the event of death
  • When does the public prosecutor get involved?
  • Funeral certificate enables the deceased to be buried

If a person has died in Germany, the existing laws regulate the procedure following the death.

Sections 28 ff. PStG (Personal Status Act) specify in detail who and where the death must be reported. As a rule, the person who was most closely associated with the deceased during his lifetime must report the death to the local registry office. The close relatives or friends can simultaneously initiate all necessary measures for the funeral of the deceased.

However, this rule is deviated from if the circumstances surrounding the death were unusual. The law speaks of an "unnatural" death in these cases. This wording refers in particular to cases of suicide, accidents or situations in which it cannot be ruled out that the death of the deceased was unlawfully caused by a third person.

Is malpractice responsible for the death of the deceased?

Deaths that occur after medical treatment has been carried out can also be unnatural in this sense, if it cannot be ruled out that the death was caused by medical malpractice.

In these cases and if the body of a stranger is found, the police and municipal authorities are obliged to report the death immediately to the competent public prosecutor or the competent local court, § 159 StPO (Code of Criminal Procedure).

In these cases, it is the task of the police to recover the found body and secure it for further investigations to be carried out.

In any case, a so-called investigation is to be carried out

Even in the event of a natural death, a so-called corpse examination must be carried out for each death. The obligation to clarify the exact cause of death results in every death from state laws and ordinances (in Bavaria e.g. from Art. 2 Funeral Act and the Ordinance on Implementation of the Funeral Act).

If there is a suspicion that the death had no natural cause, the investigation will be arranged by the public prosecutor. However, if this investigation does not reveal any indications of a criminal offense to be prosecuted by the public prosecutor, the public prosecutor will issue a so-called burial certificate in accordance with Section 159 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

With this official approval, the funeral of the deceased can be carried out. The public prosecutor's office must send the burial certificate to the responsible registry office immediately and, in accordance with 38 RiStBV (guidelines for criminal proceedings and administrative fines), it must also contain information on whether cremation is permitted.

However, if the public prosecutor's office finds evidence in the course of the body inspection that suggests third-party negligence for the death, it will initiate an investigation. The public prosecutor's office is already required for tactical reasons, the examination and opening of the corpses are to be carried out as quickly as possible, 36 RiStBV, and thus to enable the relatives to bury the deceased in a timely manner.

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