What to Do

When A Death Occurs

When someone dies, whether it is expected or not, it can be a difficult and distressing time and many do not know who to turn to first. Here are some general guidelines of what you should do, and who to contact:

When Someone Dies in Hospital

If a death occurs in hospital, the hospital staff will inform the next of kin (usually named by the deceased, this may but may not be a relative). The hospital staff will also advise if the doctor who has been treating the deceased is able to issue the medical certificate, and when this would be available to collect (the medical certificate is required to register the death). If the doctor is unable to issue the certificate, the death will be reported to the coroner, who may order a post mortem examination in order to determine the cause of death. The funeral director may now be appointed, and will take care of removing the deceased from hospital.

When Someone Dies at Home or in a Nursing Home

If the death is expected, the doctor who has been treating the deceased should be contacted in the first instance. If the death was in a nursing home, the staff will inform the doctor. Once the doctor has certified the death, the funeral director may be appointed to remove the deceased to the funeral parlour. Once again, the doctor will issue the medical certificate, either straight away, or may arrange for this to be collected from their surgery. As above, the medical certificate will be required to register the death.

When Someone Dies Suddenly

If the death is sudden and/or unexpected, the family doctor should be contacted. If the doctor is not known, family members and the police may be contacted for their help. If it is suspected that the death was not due to natural causes, it is important that the deceased and the room contents are not moved as the coroner is likely to be involved. It is usually the case that when the coroner is involved, their contracted undertakers will be summoned to remove the deceased to hospital. The funeral director of choice can then be appointed and will deal with the removal of the deceased from the hospital, usually following a post mortem examination.

When the Coroner is Involved

The coroner is usually informed when a doctor is unable to determine the cause of death, and thus will be unable to issue the medical certificate. When the deceased has not be seen or treated by a doctor within the last 14 days, the death must be reported to the coroner. It is the duty of the coroner to determine the cause of death, which will normally mean that a post mortem is ordered. The coroner is likely to be involved when:

  • the death is sudden or unexpected
  • is a result of an accident
  • the cause of death is unknown
  • the death is due to an industrial disease.

For more information on the coroner's procedure and inquests, please contact us.