If the death occurs in hospital

If the death occurs in hospital, the hospital staff or the police (if death was accidental) will contact the person named by the deceased as next of kin. This may be, but need not be, a relative. If you have been named as next of kin they will arrange a convenient time for you to attend the hospital. You will then be asked to: 

  • identify the body; 
  • give permission for a post mortem in cases where there is no legal requirement but doctors think that it is advisable in order to establish a cause of death. 

Hospital staff will arrange for the nearest relative to collect the deceased’s possessions. If you know that the person wished to donate their organs after death, you should let the hospital staff know, but it is more likely that they will approach you if the circumstances are likely to favour organ donation. You should also let the staff know if the body is to be donated to medical science. 

You may, if you wish, request to see the hospital chaplain. The hospital will keep the body in the hospital mortuary until the executor arranges for it to be taken away. 

The hospital will:

  • either issue a medical certificate of cause of death needed by the registrar, provided the cause of death is quite clear. There may be a post-mortem provided the nearest relative agrees; 
  • or, in a few cases, report the death to the coroner and make arrangements for a post mortem if required. 

If the actual time of death is not known, the doctor may estimate the time of death.