If the death occurs at home

Expected death

If the cause of death is quite clear and the doctor had attended the deceased during their last illness he or she will give you the following:

  • a medical certificate that shows the cause of death (this is free of charge and will be in a sealed envelope addressed to the registrar) 
  • a formal notice which states that the doctor has signed the medical certificate and tells you how to get the death registered. 

If the body is to be cremated, the doctor will arrange for the signature of a second doctor required to complete the cremation certificate. Doctors charge fees for providing cremation certificates.

In a few cases, the doctor may report the death to the coroner.

If it was the wish of the dead person or their nearest relative that the body or organs should be donated for transplant or medical research purposes, the doctor will have to be contacted quickly. Organs cannot normally be used when death occurs at home, but the body can still be donated to medical science. 

You may wish to contact the deceased’s minister of religion if you have not already done so. Arrangements for laying out the body and organising the funeral can be made by a funeral director. 

Unexpected death

If you discover a body or the death is sudden or unexpected, you should contact the following people (if known): 

  • the family doctor 
  • the deceased’s nearest relative 
  • the deceased’s minister of religion, if appropriate
  • the police, who will help find the people listed above if necessary 

If the death was violent or accidental, or if there are unusual circumstances or the cause of death is not known for certain, or there is any reason to suspect that the death was not due to natural causes, contact the police immediately. Do not touch the body or anything nearby, or remove anything from the area. The death may be referred to the coroner.