The place of death

When someone dies in hospital

If you are the next of kin of the deceased you will be informed of the death by the hospital staff. Many hospitals have a bereavement service where they can explain the procedures to you and coordinate the necessary paperwork. You will be able to collect the belongings of the deceased after signing the necessary forms. You will also be asked to make arrangements for the deceased to be collected from the hospital. Traditionally this has been done by a funeral director but this is not mandatory and many people now want to make the funeral arrangements themselves. As you will see in “About us”, when my father died suddenly, we decided that we wanted to do our own funeral planning and, by liaising closely with the hospital mortuary, were able to collect my father from the mortuary and take him to the crematorium via home ourselves. Hospitals do wash and prepare the deceased’s body. Relatives and friends are able to visit and spend time with the deceased if an appointment is made for a viewing in a special room.

When an expected death occurs at home or in a care home / hospice

If the death was expected, as in the case of a life-limiting illness, you need to contact the deceased’s GP or nearest doctor. If they have died in the night there is no need to contact the doctor until the following morning. If the cause of death is known and of natural causes, the doctor will issue the documents to enable you to register the death and arrange for the deceased’s body to be removed. Again, this is not mandatory and it is possible to keep the body at home and to arrange a personal send off for your loved one. For cremation you will need two doctors to sign the cremation medical certificates and the GP will nominate a second doctor from another practice to visit and sign.

When the death is sudden or unexpected.

If the death was unexpected, you need to dial 999 and ask for an ambulance and the police immediately. The operator will help you to establish whether you can resuscitate the person and the paramedics will either carry out resuscitation or confirm the death upon their arrival. Leave the area untouched apart from the resuscitation attempts. The police will arrange for the body to be moved by the coroner who will generally request a post mortem and sometimes an inquest.

This happened with my father who had a haemorrhage prior to falling down the stairs and the post mortem was not conclusive as to the exact cause of death. It may be necessary to have an inquest to determine the cause of death for life insurance purposes. Inquests can happen months after the death but an interim death certificate will be supplied to allow for the death to be registered and the funeral to go ahead.

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