We know that losing a loved one makes for a difficult and emotional time, but there are certain legalities and administrative procedures which must be followed when someone dies.

This section includes some of the key things you'll need to know.

If the death occurs in hospital

Hospital staff will contact the named 'next of kin'. This may be, but doesn't have to be a family relative of the deceased. Should you wish to do so, you can request to see the Hospital Chaplain.

The body will be kept in the hospital mortuary until the executor arranges for it to be taken away. This can be done by a Funeral Director, who will generally have a chapel of rest in which the body can be kept until the funeral. Families will be able to view the body of their loved one at the chapel of rest, if so required.

If the death occurs somewhere else than in a hospital

If someone has died somewhere else than in a hospital, you need to consider whether the death was expected or unexpected.

Expected death - Often, a death is expected and in such cases you should contact the doctor who attended the deceased during their final illness. If the doctor can certify the cause of death they will give you the following:

  • a Medical Certificate showing the cause of death (this is free of charge and will be in a sealed envelope addressed to the Registrar).
  • a formal notice, stating that the doctor has signed the Medical Certificate. The notice also tells you how to register the death.
  • Arrangements for the funeral may be made by a Funeral Director.

Unexpected death - If you discover a body, or the person's death is sudden or unexpected, you should contact the following people:

  • the family doctor (if known). The NHS has a list of GPs.
  • the deceased's minister of religion
  • the police, who will help find the people listed above if necessary.

If you have any reason to suspect that the person's death was not due to natural causes, do not touch or remove anything from the room. In such cases, the death may be referred to the Coroner, and the doctor might ask the relatives for permission to carry out a post-mortem examination.

The Coroner

You will be advised by the Doctor if the death has to be reported to the Coroner, in which case the death cannot be registered nor the funeral take place without the Sunderland Coroner's authorisation.  

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