Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kentucky Vital Statistics Law of 1911

Excluding the Sutton Law of 1852, which requested that each county keep a record of births, deaths and marriages, there was no statewide Vital Statistics Law in Kentucky until 1911. The Sutton Law was rescinded during the Civil War and then re-instated in the 1870s. Compliance with the request  was spotty and varied from county to county. That changed with the new Vital Statistics Law of 1911.

Dr. T. Atchison Frazer, the Health Officer of Crittenden County, wrote an article on the new Vital Statistic Law in the 19 January 1911 issue of the Crittenden Press. Below is a portion of that article, which explains the reasons for having such a law.

The Doctors of our country have known for years that untold thousands of lives are sacrificed each year. They have been working all these years to enlighten the laity upon the vital importance of preventive medicine. The "Old Time Physician" had done their duty when they visited the sick and gave them pills and powders, they did the best they could under the state medical knowledge in their time and God bless them, they laid the foundation upon which medical science is built, but if we did not do better than they did, the community in which we live would be better off without us.

The State Board of Health and the State Medical Association went before the Kentucky Legislature and urged upon them the importance of a Vital Statistic Law.

The Vital Statistics Law in Kentucky requires the Doctors of the State to report births within ten days and to make death certificates immediately after the death occurs. The time and place must be included in this certificate, but most important is the cause, also date in regard to the personal and family history.

It is unlawful to bury anyone without a permit from the local Registrar. There is a Registrar in each voting precinct in the County, except the five Marion precincts, they are for convenience placed under the control of one Registrar. It is the duty of the undertaker to secure certain data from the family of the deceased or some other suitable informant, then to secure the certificate of the attending physician and present this to the local Registrar who issues the burial permit. Each birth and death certificate is forwarded to the Superintendent of Vital Statistics and will be preserved in a fire proof vault for future reference.

These certificates are the legal records of births and death, which in the future will be of untold value to the Citizens of the State in establishing proof of births and deaths, in the settlements of wards and guardians, to determine the age for holding office, voting, jury service, military service, entering professions, liability under Child Labor Laws, age of consent, irresponsibility for crimes, and various other things.

The death certificates will show the cause of deaths; the number of lives wasted by preventable diseases. The Superintendent of Vital Statistics can make an inventory at the first of each year, which will give the State Board of Health and the local Health officers a basis upon which to lay their plans for the work of conserving the lives of our citizens.


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