Frequently Asked Questions
The Immediate Aftermath of a Death:
How your Funeral Director can help in the early stages
Our Dad has just passed away at home. Who should I call first in legal/funeral terms?
This is one of Jennings Funeral Directors most frequently asked questions. To save added distress, many families phone the Funeral Director first and foremost, because the Undertaker can give clear and immediate guidelines on what you need to do – depending on whether the deceased person’s death was sudden or whether the sad passing was expected after an illness.
Procedure following bereavement.
If the person has passed away at home after a terminal illness, the probability is that the family GP has seen the patient quite recently. In this case, it’s a straightforward matter of contacting the GP so that the person’s death can be confirmed and certified. A locum or D-Doc, or out-of-hours doctor can also confirm the death, but bear in mind, the D-Doc cannot complete the Death Certificate. Your Funeral Director will advise you of the need in coming days to contact the GP of the deceased and have the Death Notification form signed so that the death can be officially registered.
At this stage, when the death has been confirmed, you should then call your Funeral Director.
Sudden death – unexpected questions
In the case of a sudden death – where a person dies at home – the family should only phone the GP if the deceased person has been seen by the GP in the past 28 days. If not, then the family need to phone the Ambulance Service to confirm if the person has passed away. If so, then the family need to contact the Guards. Sudden death is very distressing – families often phone Jennings as the first phone call – and that’s fine because the Funeral Director can immediately give advice and information around all this. And the Funeral Director can reassure the relatives that having the Guards involved is a normal procedure following unexpected death at home.
The Coroner may decide on a Post Mortem – again, it happens all the time. At Jennings, we find that many families contact us at this stage also – because even though there’s a delay and the funeral can’t proceed until after a post-mortem – the Funeral Director can reassure and advise the families and also there are some funeral arrangements that can be set in place, though not confirmed, by the Funeral Director even at this early stage.
If someone dies in a hospital or hospice, what is the normal sequence of events? What do we need to do as a family?
This is probably a more straightforward situation. When your relative passes away in the hospital, the doctor of the deceased person is on duty, they will confirm the death and sign the death notification form. If that doctor or any of the team are not on-duty, there may be a delay. If Jennings have been contacted by now, we liaised with the hospital on your behalf, and keep the family informed and reassured about procedure.
Sometimes, a post-mortem is called for but, usually, post-mortems are not required after a hospital stay. At this stage in Jennings, we have the systems in place so that your beloved relative can be collected as soon as the family wish this to happen, once we receive official clearance from the hospital or hospice – and again – Jennings directly phone the hospital as much as necessary so that the family can be spared this extra stress.
What is the role of the Coroner when someone dies from a natural cause?
Mostly, the Coroner will not be involved when a patient dies from a natural illness especially if they are seen regularly by their GP. In these cases, the GP will confirm the death in writing – this is called a Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death.
What exactly is a Post Mortem?
A Post-Mortem is basically a medical examination after death. Sometimes it’s called an Autopsy. The Post Mortem is carried out by a Pathologist when there is a need to establish the cause of death, where the cause of death is unknown for sure.
If there is a Post Mortem called for – will this delay our family in making funeral arrangements?
Yes – there will be some delay – but your Funeral Director can help you work around that delay. Most families will have meetings with their Funeral Director while they wait for their relative to be released from the care of the Coroner when the Post Mortem takes place. The delay might be just 1-2 days – but the Coroner’s office is often affected by Bank Holidays or Christmas.
Also – please bear in mind other delays. For example – Jennings would regularly help families where for example a very elderly relative passed away peacefully at home but because they hadn’t seen the GP for a long time, there’s a Post Mortem. And sometimes the Coroner’s office have to delay for more than two days if a death involving a State Criminal Case comes in and this has to be given priority. But your Funeral Director can liaise with the Coroner’s office and keep the family informed and give reassurance.