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If death occurs at home
If death occurs in hospital
How to register a death
Planning the funeral
If death occurs at home
Whoever discovers the body should ...
- Contact the family doctor. (Inform the doctor if cremation is planned as a second doctor will then have to view the body at the funeral home). Usually the doctor who attended the deceased will issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, together with a formal notice stating he has signed the certificate and telling you how to register the death with the Registrar of Births and Deaths. This certificate is given to the next of kin so that the death can be registered at the Register Office (see How to Register a Death)
- Contact the police if the death is violent, accidental or there are suspicious circumstances and the cause is not known for certain. If the police are called in do not touch or remove anything in the room.
- Contact a funeral director on 01274 571021 (24 hours a day)
If it is the wish of the deceased or their next of kin that the body or organs should be donated for transplant or medical research purposes, the doctor will have to be contacted as soon as as possible. In most cases the organs cannot normally be used when a death occurs at home, but the body can still be donated to medical science.
The ward's nursing staff will contact the next of kin.
The Medical Certificate of Cause of Death will be issued by the hospital doctor (unless the Coroner ó Procurator Fiscal in Scotland ó is informed, see The work of the Coroner). This certificate is given to the next of kin so that the death can be registered at the Register Office.
The ward sister will tell the nearest relative and will arrange a convenient time for attending the hospital to take away the deceasedís possessions.
The hospital will keep the body in the hospital mortuary until the relatives arrange for it to be taken away by the funeral director to their Chapel of Rest.
The death is usually registered in the district of the hospital where death took place although deaths can be registered at any Register Office (see How to register a death).
The Hospital may wish to carry out a post-mortem if the nearest relative agrees.
If you know that the person wished to donate their organs for transplant after death, you should let the hospital staff know, but it is more likely that they will approach the next of kin if the circumstances are likely to favour transplant.
Providing the doctor attended the deceased during his/her last illness and can certify the cause of death, the doctor will provide the 'Medical Certificate of Cause of Death'. If the doctor cannot issue this certificate, the doctor may report the death to the coroner ó procurator fiscal in Scotland ó (see The work of the coroner) in the following circumstances ...
- If the deceased person was not attended by a doctor during his/her last illness or within 14 days prior to death.
- If the cause of death is uncertain.
- If death was sudden, violent or caused by an accident.
- If death was caused by an industrial disease.
- If death occurred while the patient was undergoing an operation, or was under the effect of an anaesthetic.
This is not a complete list of all the circumstances in which a death is to be reported to the coroner.
The coroner is a person responsible for investigating certain deaths.
The coroner will:
- Not take any action if the cause of death falls outside his/her guidelines.
- Probably arrange for a post-mortem examination of the body. The consent of the relatives is not needed for this, but they can choose a doctor to be present. It may be important to know the cause of the death accurately.
- Issue a Pink Form for the Registrar of Births and Deaths, if the post-mortem shows that death was due to natural causes. He may send this direct to the Registrar or give it to the funeral director to deliver.
- Hold an inquest (Fatal Accident Inquiry ó FAI) if the death was:
- violent; or
- caused by an accident; or
- caused by an industrial disease; or
- if, after post-mortem examination, the cause of death remains uncertain
An inquest is an inquiry into the medical cause and circumstance of death. It is held in public, and is sometimes with a jury. It is up to the coroner how to organise the inquiry in a way to best serve the public interest and the interests of the relatives.
Relatives can attend and ask questions of witnesses with the coronerís permission, or be represented by a lawyer. It may be important to have a lawyer to represent you if death was caused by a road accident or accident at work, which could lead to a claim for compensation. But you cannot get legal aid for this.
The coroner will also:
- Give free of charge, an order for burial or a certificate for cremation
- Send a certificate-after-inquest to the registrar, stating the cause of death.
- Give, on request, a letter confirming the fact of death, if his enquiries are likely to take some time, for social security and insurance benefit purposes.
- Give permission for the body to be removed out of England and Wales. (This permission has to be obtained in every case where the funeral is to take place outside England and Wales, and not just where the death has been reported to the coroner).
- Pay for the removal of a body from the place of death to the mortuary for post-mortem examination. If possible, the funeral director to be used will be chosen by the relatives.
For further information about coroner's procedure see The work of the coroner.
See How to register a death.
- If the death has been referred to the coroner, it cannot be registered until the registrar has received authority from the coroner to do so.
- If the death has not been referred to the coroner, go to the registrar as soon as possible. The death should normally be registered within five days
Take with you ...
- the "Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death" given by the doctor;
- the deceased person's NHS medical card (if it can be found);
- any war pension order book of the deceased;
- sufficient money for copies of the "Certified Entry of Death" ó the death certificate needed where proof of death is required by banks, probate, insurance etc;
- The names of the insurance companies who have cover on the deceased would be helpful.
Tell the registrar ...
- the date and place of death and the deceasedís usual address;
- the full names and surname of the deceased (and the maiden name if the deceased was a woman who had married);
- the deceasedís date and place of birth (town and county, and country if born abroad);
- the deceasedís occupation (and the name and occupation of her husband if the deceased was a married woman or a widow).
If the person was married more than once, details of the spouses may also be required.
- whether the deceased person was getting a pension or allowance from public funds;
- if the deceased person was married, the date of birth of the surviving widow or widower.
Note. Some of the information described above may be obtained from the deceased's birth certificate and marriage certificate(s).
In return for the above information the registrar will supply you with ...
- Certificate for Disposal (green in colour and free of charge) ó if the coroner has not already issued one. This should be taken to the funeral director, who in turn will pass it to the burial or cremation authority, so that the funeral can take place.
- Certificate of Registration of Death (free of charge). This is for social security purposes only. It should be given to the local social security office together with any pension/allowance books. (Keep a copy of the reference numbers on the books just in case you need to refer to them in later correspondence.)
- Any leaflets on state benefits, income tax for widows, etc that may be appropriate.
You can also ask the registrar for ...
- Extra certificates which you may need for the will and any pension claims, insurance policies, savings bank certificates and premium bonds. (Photocopies are not accepted). These certificates must be paid for. You may apply for extra copies later but these will cost more.
The Registrar has to report certain types of death to the Coroner if this has not already been done. It may be necessary to delay the funeral if a day and time has already been arranged. Contact the funeral director as soon as possible.
For further information see How to register a death
See Pre-funeral planning)