What to do After Death

It may be possible to get a death certificate out of hours, if the family doctor has seen the deceased prior to death and indicated to the Sheffield GP Collaborative that they would be willing to offer this service. Some, not all, doctors have volunteered to do this.

  1. Expected death in hospital

If the death occurs in hospital, the hospital staff will contact the person named by the deceased as their next of kin.

  • A doctor will issue a Formal Notice and Medical Certificate (as in 1 above).

The hospital will keep the body in the hospital mortuary until the next of kin arranges for it to be taken away to the mosque or funeral director’s mortuary to be washed.

The hospital will not normally release the body until the Medical Certificate is obtained from the Bereavement office or from the duty matron (if out of hours).

Hospital staff will also arrange for the next of kin to collect the deceased’s possessions.

If you are asked for permission to do a post-mortem, do not agree to this in case of an expected death. Islam does not permit post-mortems if they are not required by the law.

  1. Unexpected death

If you discover a body or the death is sudden or unexpected, you should contact the following people:

  • The family doctor
  • The deceased’s next of kin
  • The local mosque

If necessary, the police will help to find the people listed above.

If the cause of death is quite clear, the doctor will be able to certify the cause of death and they will give you the following:

  • A Formal Notice that states that a doctor has signed the Medical Certificate and tells you how the death can be registered
  • A Medical Certificate that shows the cause of death (this is free of charge and will be given in a sealed envelope addressed to the Registrar of Deaths).

If the doctor treating the deceased had not seen him or her either after the death or within 14 days before the death, the death must be reported to the coroner as explained in the next section of this guide.

  1. Unexpected death – reporting to the coroner

The coroner is a doctor or lawyer responsible for investigating deaths. In any of the following circumstances the doctor may report the death to the coroner:

  • If the cause of death is unknown or uncertain
  • The death was sudden and unexplained, e.g. a sudden infant death (cot death)
  • The death occurred in prison or in police custody
  • The death was caused by an accident or injury
  • The death was caused by an industrial disease
  • The death occurred shortly after admission to hospital or while the patient was undergoing an operation or did not recover from the anaesthetic.

Also as noted above, if the doctor treating the deceased had not seen him or her either after the death or within 14 days before the death, the death must also be reported to the coroner. The coroner is likely to be the only person to certify the cause of death under the above circumstances.

  1. Unexpected death – coroner’s post-mortem

If the cause of death is not known, the coroner may want to arrange a post-mortem examination of the body to determine it. Digital Post-Mortem examinations can now be requested in Sheffield for a fee of £600 + VAT =£700. This is a preferred method for a post-mortem, as it would not involve cutting the body or removing any parts, but in some cases an invasive post-mortem may be needed.

The consent of relatives is not needed for a post-mortem, but they are entitled to be represented at the examination.

If the post-mortem shows that death was due to natural causes, the coroner may issue a notification known as the Pink Form (Form 100), which gives the cause of death so the death can be registered. The coroner usually sends the form directly to the Registrar of Deaths, but may give it to you to deliver.

  1. Unexpected death – inquest

An inquest is an enquiry into the medical cause and circumstances of a death. It is held in public, sometimes with a jury. It is up to the coroner to organise the enquiry in the way that best serves the public interest and the interests of the relatives.

The coroner will hold an inquest if:

  • The death was violent or unnatural
  • The death was caused by an industrial disease
  • The death occurred in prison
  • The cause of death remains uncertain after post-mortem examination.

The coroner may give you an Order for Burial (form 101), so the funeral can take place. This may be done before the inquest is completed, provided the body is not required for further examination.

The coroner will also send a Certificate After Inquest (form 99 [rev]), stating the cause of death, to the Registrar of Deaths. This allows the death to be registered.

  1. Stillborn babies

If a baby is stillborn (born with no signs of life after 24 weeks of pregnancy) you will be given a Medical Certificate of Stillbirth signed by the midwife or doctor, which should be given to the Registrar of Deaths.

If no doctor or midwife was present and no doctor or midwife examined the body, you will not be given a Medical Certificate of Stillbirth. You must however sign a form (Form 35), which the Registrar of Deaths will give to you when you go to register the death.

If a baby is stillborn before 24 weeks of pregnancy, it is treated as a “non-viable foetus”. You will be given a form by the midwife or doctor recording the details of the non-viable foetus.

You do not however need to register the death of a non-viable foetus with the Registrar of Deaths and no other paperwork is required.

Islamic perspective

In Islam, a fetus is defined as a morsel of flesh, blood and water if it is less than 120 days (17 weeks) inside a mother’s womb. It becomes human after 120 days (17 weeks or more).