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Mortuary & Bereavement Services


I           REQUESTS  

Hospital Autopsies

Before completing any consent form or request for a hospital autopsy, telephone the appropriate pathologist through their secretary (Ext. UHND 32457) Advice regarding what tissue is likely to be retained, who is eligible to obtain consent for the autopsy and consent for the possible subsequent retention of tissue can then be given directly.  The pathologists will ask for the case notes, request form and consent form to be sent to the laboratory. 

 If you are interested in viewing  findings then please provide availability details and contact numbers.

 Coroners Autopsies

When reporting a death to the Coroner, the Coroner's Office should be contacted:

As a general guideline deaths listed below should be referred to the Coroner (the list is not comprehensive and if there is any doubt contact the Coroner's Office for advice).

  1.  All deaths in which the doctor has not attended in the last illness or within 14 days of the death.  This usually refers to deaths in the community.
  2.  Sudden Unexpected Death - When a sudden death occurs in an in-patient, which was NOT to be expected from the nature of his illness.  Persons brought in dead, who die during admission or shortly after admission to the wards, where insufficient clinical history, examination or investigations are available to justify a firm opinion as to the cause of death (the underlying cause of death, NOT the MODE of death).
  3. Accidents and injuries OF ANY DATE which are considered to have contributed to the cause of death.
  4. Anaesthetics, Surgical Operations and Therapeutic Procedures:-

    Deaths during or before complete recovery from anaesthetic are reportable, as are deaths during, or as a consequence of any operation or therapeutic procedure (such as cardiac catheterisation, endoscopy, angiography or any other radiological diagnostic procedure).

    The common misapprehension that only deaths occurring within twenty-four hours of operation are reportable should be discarded - no time limit exists, if any caused connection is thought to exist, e.g. pulmonary embolism within the first fortnight.  Where the procedure was performed as a consequence of any injury, the death is always reportable.
  5. Deaths due to crime or suspected crime.
  6. Deaths due to Industrial Disease (or in which industrial disease was possibly contributory), see Appendix 1. Of particular importance are miners with pneumoconiosis and any suspected mesothelioma.
  7. Deaths due to starvation or neglect (including hypothermia).
  8. Deaths in which the deceased was in receipt of an industrial or war disability pension.
  9.  Infant deaths which are unexplained (S.I.D.S.).
  10. Persons dying in legal custody.
  11.   Deaths due to poisoning of any cause (includes food poisoning as well as more obvious causes).
  12. Traumatic deaths (e.g. R.T.A., domestic injuries).
  13. Suicide/suspected suicide.
  14. Unidentified bodies.
  15. Circumstances in which a relative or similar expresses dissatisfaction or outright criticism of the standard of medical or nursing care (best discussed with the Pathologist in the first instance).
  16. Alcoholism - where acute intoxication but not the effects of chronic alcoholism is suspected as the cause of or contributing to death.
  17. Death related to the use of recreational drugs.
  18. Deaths related to abortion where any cause other than natural is suspected.



All post-mortems are performed as soon as possible depending upon the circumstances of each particular case. 

Clinicians are encouraged to attend and prior notice will be given as regards the time of the autopsy wherever possible.

Summary findings (issued as a cause of death) will be sent to the deceased's GP within several hours of completion of the autopsy in most cases (a notable exception being Coroner's autopsies which will proceed to an inquest).  

III         HIGH RISK CASES (Infectious Disease)

Please note that all such bodies submitted to the mortuary (for post-mortem or not) must clearly be identified as a high risk and all appropriate staff (nursing, portering, mortuary) must be informed.  Appropriate body bags and labels must be used.  (See Infection Control Manual, Chapter 9).

In general known high risk cases will not be autopsied unless this is vital.  The request form must clearly identify infectious risk and its nature.  The cases must be discussed with the relevant pathologist.  Cases of HIV and Hepatitis B (or similar infections) will be performed as a 'high Risk procedure.   CJD and other category 4 infections will not be performed.  If an autopsy is required on these cases the pathologist will liaise with other hospitals.  


For any queries as regards disposal of foetal tissue, kindly refer to the unit policy (available in the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology).


Please liaise with mortuary technical staff prior to directing relatives to the mortuary for body viewing (extension UHND 32300, or DMH 43594).  Unbooked attendance for relative viewing can lead to unnecessary conflict, delays and distress for relatives of their expectation for viewing cannot be accommodated.


Guidance notes for obtaining consent for
post mortem examination on an adult


      Consent & the Hospital Post Mortem:

•        Can be performed with the prior consent of the deceased.

•        Deceased's nominated representative

•        Person in a qualifying relationship


       Nominated Representative

•        Adults may appoint one or more persons

•        Where deceased persons wishes are not known, the nominated representative must give consent.

•        Must verify the NR's authority to act on behalf of the deceased person


       Appointment of a Nominated Representative:

•        May be general, or limited to consent in relation to one or more activities

•        May be made orally (in the presence of at least two witnesses)

•        May be made in writing:

       Signed in the presence of at least one witness who attests the signature, or

       Signed at the direction of the person making the appointment, in their presence & that of at least one witness who attests the signature, or

       Contained in the deceased person's will


       Qualifying Relationships (ranking in highest priority first)

•        Spouse or partner (including civil or same sex partner)

•        Parent or child

•        Brother or sister

•        Grandparent or grandchild

•        Niece or nephew

•        Stepfather or stepmother

•        Half-brother or half-sister

•        Friend of long standing


       Discuss the Post mortem examination with the deceased person's relatives or nominee. They need to be given:

•        Honest, clear, objective information

•        Opportunity to talk to someone they can trust & ask questions

•        Reasonable time to reach decisions

•        Support if needed (bereavement, psychological etc)


       Those seeking consent should be sufficiently senior & well informed, with a thorough knowledge of the procedure.

       Ideally they should be trained in the management of bereavement & in the purpose & procedures of post mortem examinations.

       Usually the responsibility of the deceased persons clinician

       This responsibility should not be delegated  to untrained or inexperienced staff


      Responsible clinician should contact the pathologist who will perform the PM, before discussion with relatives so that:

•        Accurate guidance can be given on which, if any, organs or tissues are likely to be taken.

•        Opportunity for pathologist to be available for any discussion the relatives may wish to have

•        If pathologist certain no organs will be retained then there will be no need to obtain relative consent & this section of the form can be deleted



HTA Codes of Practice  - Consent (July 2006)


'I would like to thank all the staff for my treatment and their professionalism.'

Patient, Cardiology Department, Bishop Auckland Hospital