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What to do when someone dies in hospital

If a loved one has unfortunately passed away in hospital, the next of kin or closest family members will be informed immediately. Many hospitals throughout the UK have staff specialising in bereavement matters who are able to explain procedures and next steps to you. Otherwise, this may be done by the ward staff.

Will the hospital issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death?

A doctor at the hospital will usually issue a Medical Certificate if the cause of death is known. If the cause of death is unknown or not yet confirmed, the hospital will ask the next of kin’s permission to carry out a post-mortem examination.

If the doctor is unsure about the actual cause of death, even if it was clearly from natural causes, or if the deceased died suddenly or unnaturally, they will contact the coroner (or procurator fiscal in Scotland). The coroner or procurator fiscal may order a post mortem examination or inquest to determine the cause of death and then issue the documents allowing the death to be registered.

It is important to note that a funeral cannot be conducted until the Coroner’s inquest has been completed and cause of death established.

If the deceased is to be cremated, please let the doctor know. The Medical Certificate is required before you can register the death – this must be done within five days in England and Wales, and within eight days in Scotland.

Where is my loved one kept if they die in hospital?

If a loved one has died in hospital, they will be kept in the hospital mortuary until you can arrange for your chosen funeral director, or family, to collect them.

If your loved one is being collected by a funeral director, they will liaise with the hospital directly to ensure safe transport of the deceased into their own chapel of rest facilities, keeping you fully informed each step of the way. You may need to sign an authorisation form to enable the funeral director to take the deceased into their care from the hospital.

What happens to my loved one’s possessions if they die in hospital?

Your loved one’s possessions will be kept safe by hospital staff until the person administering the estate arranges for them to be collected. The hospital staff will issue a receipt when the possessions are collected.

My loved one has died in hospital and was an organ donor

If you’re unsure whether or not your loved one was registered as an organ donor, the hospital should be able to verify this for you. They may ask you to confirm that they had not changed their mind before passing away. The organ donation process begins by verifying that the person has passed away and then getting consent for the donation of any usable organs.

Click here to learn more about organ and body donation after death

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