These days many people die in a hospital or a nursing home environment. When this occurs, the hospital or nursing home staff takes care of the medical formalities.
When a person dies at home with support from hospice or palliative care services, the ‘on duty’ staff will help with the formalities, such as notifying the treating doctor.
The staff from these health services will help you and even call the funeral director, on your behalf, to arrange the transfer of the person who died to the funeral home.
When an unexpected death occurs in a home, hospital or public place then that death may be referred to the Coroner’s Office. At this point you may require the more immediate assistance of a Funeral Director.
When someone dies in the hospital, the following steps are taken:
- The hospital staff will notify the treating doctor so that the medical death certificate can be completed.
- They will notify the next of kin and family members who will need to contact the Funeral Director. The Funeral Director will arrange for the transfer of the deceased person from the hospital to the funeral home.
- If requested by the family, hospital staff can arrange for the hospital details and deceased person to be released to the Funeral Director.
When someone dies at home, the following steps should be taken:
- Contact the family doctor to officially verify that death has occurred, and confirm that the doctor will be signing the medical death certificate.
- Notify the next of kin and family members.
- Contact hospice or palliative care services.
- Contact the preferred Funeral Director to arrange for the transfer of the deceased person to the funeral home.
When the Coroner is involved
You are not obliged to use the funeral director who transported the persons body to the Coroner after death.
Which Deaths are Reported
Unexpected death – any death can be unexpected. A doctor who has been regularly treating a patient may have an opinion about the cause of death. But if the person’s death was not expected at that time by the treating doctor, it needs to be thoroughly investigated.
Accident or injury – even when the cause of death seems clear, the Coroner still needs to find out what happened. For example, a car accident may have been caused by the driver having a heart attack or by a fault in the car. Identifying what contributed to the accident allows preventative measures to be recommended.
Held in an institution – people in police custody, people in Jail, involuntary patients in psychiatric institutions, and children in juvenile justice centres. This does not usually involve people in hospitals or nursing homes.
A death must be referred to the Coroner for investigation when:
- the person died unexpectedly,
- the person died from an accident or injury,
- the person died in a violent or unnatural way,
- the person died during or as a result of an anaesthetic,
- the person was ‘in an institution’ immediately before they died,
- a doctor has been unable to sign a death certificate giving
the cause of death, or
- the identity of the person who has died is not known.