What To Do First - Funeral Advice

If the death happens in hospital

If the death occurs in hospital a member of the hospital staff will have the responsibility of contacting the person they have on their records as next of kin. You can request to see the hospital chaplain if you so wish. The body will be kept in the hospital mortuary until the executor organises for it to be taken away. Funeral Directors tend to have a chapel of rest in which the deceased will be held awaiting the funeral. A member of the hospital team will arrange for the next of kin or nearest relative to collect the deceased's possessions.

If the death occurs elsewhere

If the death was expected you should contact the doctor who attended the deceased during their final illness. If the doctor can certify the cause of death they will provide you with the following:

A Medical Certificate that shows the cause of death. This is a document provided free of charge in a sealed envelope addressed to the registrar.

A Formal Notice that confirms that the doctor has signed the Medical Certificate and explains how to get the death registered.

If the death occurred as a result of HIV or AIDS there may be special rules regarding handling the body. The following organisations can advise on funeral arrangements:

  • London Lighthouse
  • FACTS Health Centre
  • Terrence Higgins Trust

If the death is sudden or unexpected or if you find a body you should contact the following people:

  • The family doctor
  • The deceased's nearest relative
  • The deceased's minister of religion
  • The police who will help find these people if necessary

If for any reason you expect the death is not due to natural causes you must not touch or remove anything from the room. The death may be referred to the coroner.

If the death occurs abroad

If the death should occur abroad you should register the death according to the local regulations of that country and get a death certificate. Also register the death with the British Consul so that a record of death will be kept in England. A funeral director will be able to advise on bringing the body back to England, should you wish to do so.


The doctors may wish to know more about the cause of death, they may ask the relatives for permission to carry out a postmortem examination. This is a medical examination that can determine the cause of death and should not delay the funeral.

Reporting the death to the coroner

In the event of an accident or injury; industrial disease, during surgical operation, before recovery from an anaesthetic, if the cause of death is unknown or if the death was sudden and unexplained, the doctor may report the death to the coroner. The coroner may be the only person who can certify the cause of death. The doctor will write on the Formal Notice that the death has been referred to the coroner.

If the organs or body are to be donated

It may of been the wish of the deceased to donate organs for transplant, or the whole body for medical teaching purposes. You will have to act quickly if this is the case. It is usual to approach the next of kin to make sure they do not object to organ donation. A Medical Certificate must be issued before any organs can be removed or the body used.

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