The First Steps
What to do when someone dies?
Any death, whether expected or sudden, has its own spectrum of emotions and reactions, which we as individuals experience differently.
Listed below, you will find practical information which is specific to different situations, please follow through the advice that applies to you.
If you require urgent help, do not hesitate to contact us.
The first question we must ask is
Where did the death occur?
Expected Death at Home
After death has occurred or you think it has, it is important to seek professional medical opinion. Either attendance by the GP or community nurse will confirm death. If you are concerned and preservation of life is in question, phone 999 and ask for an ambulance.
Only a qualified medical professional can Pronounce Life Extinct (PLE) which is a legal term to confirm the time of death in a proscribed manner. It is a legal act and will be used for the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (Form 11 or MCCD) which will be issued by the deceased's Health Centre. If the PLE was performed out of hours, there is no requirement for the GP to attend and view the deceased.
It is only after PLE that we can attend to assist you. It is entirely up to you as a family when we attend. The position and situation of the deceased will also have an important bearing on this decision. We always recommend the timely removal of the deceased into our care as temperature control is important and hence we do not recommend a prolonged period after death, at home, prior to removal into our care.
Upon arrival, we will need basic information from you concerning the deceased. There is no requirement to “make arrangements” at this time, although if you are aware of any specific requests or prearranged plans, that information would be appreciated. If there are connections to religious groups, this is also very helpful, as there are some rites that may need to be performed.
Sudden or Unexpected Death
In the event of discovering a presumed death, it is imperative that preservation of life is attempted, check for a pulse, breathing, body temperature or eye movement. If the person is obviously deceased then please do not approach or touch the deceased. Contact 999 and ask for an Ambulance, the operator will advise you and will also contact Police Scotland to attend. The Ambulance staff will either attempt life saving actions or Pronounce Life Extinct (PLE). The Police will attend and if death is confirmed, they will assess whether the death is “Medical” or “Suspicious”.
A “Suspicious Death” is where there is an obvious irregularity to the facts. For this type of death, the Police; seal the scene, interview any witnesses or family and arrange for the deceased to be transferred to the Police Mortuary for further examination. They will complete a “Report” to the Procurator Fiscals Service which will be handled by the Scottish Fatality Investigation Unit (SFIU), either in Edinburgh 0844 561 4110 or Glasgow 0844 561 2470 (correct at Jan 2017) depending on where the death occurred. Only the Fiscal can issue the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) after the investigation has been completed.
A “Medical Death” is where the Medical conditions suffered by the deceased are not known or death wasn’t expected, however there are no obvious suspicions about the death which would mean further investigation by Police Scotland. The question of the issue of the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) is left entirely to the GP, who will assess from the medical history whether, on the balance of probability, the cause can be determined without further examination, or whether the SFIU will need to be involved.
Prior to this decision being made, you will be asked by Police Scotland to contact your Funeral Director to attend and remove your loved one into their care. At this point we would transfer the deceased into one of our Temperature Controlled facilities (either in Livingston or Harthill). Until the GP makes a decision, viewing or visitation cannot be allowed, however we will advise you accordingly, as each case is individual.