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Anderlecht officials declare woman dead by mistake

10:13 12/11/2019

A woman in Anderlecht had the shock of her life when she received a letter from the commune saying she had been declared dead.

Véronique, 57, had to provide a "certificate of living" - to prove she was still alive - and have her ID documents reissued after the administrative mishap.

The error occurred when she  was preparing the funeral for her mother, Andrée, who had died on 27 September. She went to the funeral parlour and filled out the necessary paperwork to obtain a death certificate from the town hall.

But a clerk at the commune made an error using the computer system. Instead of entering the national identity number of her mother, the clerk inputted the number of her next-of-kin.

"I received a letter from the commune apologising for a small error they had made," she said. "They had declared me dead instead of my mother. We have neither the same name, nor the same address."

Véronique's details in the population register and her identity card were cancelled - and she had to provide a "certificate of living" and a new set of photos to have her file reactivated and a new ID card issued.

"I no longer existed because everything is based on this register," she told RTL. "I was worried about what would happen to my salary, my widow's pension, my health insurance, my bank..."

News of her death travelled fast. On 4 October, her children received a letter from the federal finance ministry, relating to the inheritance arrangements.

"I spoke to the woman who signed the letter," Véronique said. "She looked in the national register and saw that I was alive again."

Luckily the error was fixed quickly enough before most of the authorities were informed. "The announcement of my temporary death did not have time to reach everyone," Véronique said.

Anderlecht's city councillor responsible for the population register, Fabienne Miroir, said: "The clerk at the town hall made an error inputting the data. Instead of entering the national number for the deceased, they enter the number for their next-of-kin."

A recent upgrade to the software used means it is no longer possible to go back and fix an error - the data is immediately transmitted to the relevant authorities.

Miroir said the town hall clerk "immediately" realised the mistake, but added: "Even though it was a genuine error, we will interview the clerk and initiate disciplinary proceedings."

The possible sanctions include a warning or a fine in the form of a withheld salary payment.

Véronique said she will not be suing Anderlecht town hall for the distress caused. "I spoke with a few friends and they advised me it was best to accept the situation.

"I was angry at first. I thought that if I lived in the US, I would become a millionaire, with a lawyer fighting tooth and nail to win damages for me."

But she added: "The commune was attentive, fast and effecient in solving my prolem."

Written by The Bulletin