What You Should Do When Someone Dies In A Hospital
Published April 21st, 2020
According to research, about 700,000 people die in US hospitals each year. That’s about 25% of all deaths in the country. This means that most of us have a loved one or know someone who died in a hospital.
But what happens when someone dies in a hospital?
Upon Pronouncement of Death
If you are the next of kin, the attending hospital staff will inform you of the patient’s death.
A medical professional will also complete a Pronouncement of Death Form. The details therein usually include the date, time and place where the person died as well as the cause of death. As the next of kin, you may also be asked to supply some of the deceased’s personal information. This will serve as the basis for the person’s death record.
Upon completion of the death pronouncement form, the hospital staff will also talk to you about organ donation. If the deceased had signed up for organ donation before dying, you may need to honor their wishes. If they haven’t, you can still sign them up for organ donation. Decisions of this kind have to be made at once as the organs need to be transplanted immediately after death.
Most hospitals also have bereavement staff who will explain the paperwork and processes to you.
Death by Unnatural Causes
If there is doubt that the person died by unnatural causes, they may have to be subjected to autopsy. The same is also true for people who perished from accidents. In cases like these, the coroner’s office will be called to conduct an investigation. If there’s a need for an autopsy, burial arrangements may have to be delayed.
Once the Pronouncement of Death Form is completed, you can begin making transportation arrangements. Before choosing a funeral home, don’t forget to check if the deceased has a pre-arranged funeral plan. If there’s none, you can also ask the bereavement staff to make the arrangements for you. Most hospitals have funeral home partners which they can call anytime.
For out-of-state burials, the funeral director can usually arrange for the body’s transport by land, air or sea. Hospitals also have a mandate that bodies should be handled according to the deceased’s religious and cultural beliefs.
Funeral homes usually arrive several hours after the patient is pronounced dead. While waiting, hospitals usually keep the dead body in morgues (if they have one).
For Home Burial
Home funerals offer a less costly alternative to traditional funerals. In the US, all states allow home funerals though regulations vary. Some states like Connecticut and New York require the involvement of a funeral director in certain aspects. Be sure to check your state’s home funeral laws first before making any arrangements.
If you avail of the services of a funeral director, they usually take care of the death registration process. Most states also require them or the coroner to complete the death registration form and burial permit form.
A death registration form contains personal information about the deceased as well as the cause of death. The former is usually supplied by the deceased’s family or the next of kin. While the latter is provided by either the coroner or attending physician.
The burial permit form, on the other hand, discloses how, when, and where the deceased will be buried.
If you are arranging the funeral yourself, you need to submit both of these forms to the County Recorder where the deceased died. You need to get their approval before the body can be buried. The person-in-charge of the burial will also have to sign the burial permit form before returning it to the county recorder.
Once the county recorder determines that all the forms are complete and accurate, they will issue a Death Certificate. Many organizations, particularly insurance companies, will require this as proof of death.
If the deceased is a body donor or you are planning to donate their body to science, the first thing you need to do is call the body donation institution immediately after death.
The institution will then evaluate the deceased’s eligibility for body donation. Most people will qualify as a body donor except if they:
- have been diagnosed with communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis B
- have a history of intravenous drug use
- are recently incarcerated for a long period
- have been institutionalized
- were homeless
- are severely obese or emaciated at the time of death
For DonorCure body donors, we will immediately arrange for their body’s transport to our facility once the donation is approved. We will also take care of all expenses related to the body donation process including the cremation of the deceased’s remains.
DonorCure also pays for and facilitates the processing of a donor’s death certificate. Once the donation is completed, the donor’s cremated remains will be returned to the family or scattered at sea depending on the donor’s request.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the power of knowledge when it comes to whole body donation and she wants to share her experience with the world. She also loves to write about food and art.