Place of death: correct procedures & formalities

The types of documentation and correct procedures and formalities required when someone dies depend largely upon the circumstances and place of death, for example, whether the person died at home, in hospital, in a residential care home, nursing home or, perhaps, in a public place.

The necessary procedures, arrangements and formalities for the funeral may also differ depending on whether the death occurred in the UK or abroad.

Correct procedure & formalities when a person dies in hospital

Most hospitals have set procedures in place and dedicated members of staff or bereavement counsellors on hand to offer assistance, practical advice and support. (Similar facilities are also generally available where the place of death is a care home or nursing home) typically, the hospital will:

  • notify the next of kin
  • request that the person named as next of kin formally identifies the deceased
  • if the deceased is registered as an organ or tissue donor, the transplant co-ordinator will discuss the possibility of removing the relevant organs/tissue, as a matter of urgency; organs will not be taken without permission
  • a doctor who cared for the deceased immediately prior to death will examine the body and issue a medical certificate showing the cause of death, (the signature of two doctors is required if the body is to be cremated)
  • for stillborn babies, the doctor or midwife completes a medical certificate of stillbirth
  • refer the death to the coroner (procurator fiscal in Scotland), if the death is sudden, unexpected or due to unnatural causes, thus possibly delaying the issue of the certificate, pending the coroner’s enquiries
  • request the consent of the next of kin if a coroner’s post mortem examination is required
  • arrange the collection of the deceased’s belongings
  • assist with contacting a funeral director to arrange the collection and removal of the deceased, to a temporary resting place, before the funeral;
  • give advice on registering the death
  • offer help with the immediate paperwork
  • provide immediate emotional support and/or volunteer bereavement counselling, where appropriate

Death at home: correct procedure & formalities

The appropriate procedures if someone dies at home will depend on the circumstances surrounding the death.

For example: if the death is sudden or unexpected, the emergency services should always be contacted, immediately; they will then advise the next of kin as to the appropriate course of action; if the death is expected or occurs as a result of a protracted or terminal illness, the attendee at the place of death should first contact the deceased’s GP or doctor or other regular medical practitioner who will issue the death certificate required to register the death if the GP or doctor is unable, for whatever reason, to establish the cause of death, the medical professional will contact the coroner, at this point.

Death in a public place: correct procedures

A public place, by definition, when referring to the place where a person has died, excludes someone’s home, a hospital, or other residential care facility.

Examples of public places include any public building such as a hotel, shop, school, club, pub, car park or other public area such as a road, street, park, etc.

Most deaths that occur in public places are unexpected; therefore, the police and ambulance services should be contacted, immediately. If the deceased appears to have died in suspicious circumstances, the police must be notified, forthwith, and the area surrounding the body, cordoned off pending police investigations; in these situations, the police will then liaise with the coroner and funeral director, as appropriate.

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