Often not many of us know how to respond or who to call when a death occurs, especially if that death is unexpected. I've compiled a list of the steps to take when death happens in a certain environment. Depending on the state you live in, there are laws which may vary, making it necessary for a medical professional such as a nurse or doctor to be present to verify the cause of death.
The funeral director from the funeral home you choose to work with will arrange to get a signature from the attending doctor for the death certificate and will also contact the coroner's office, if necessary. If there is a doubt as to the cause of death due to homicide or suicide, the county coroner will be called.
Listed below is a brief summary of what happens and what action you should take in various different situations:
Unexpected Death in a Home
If someone dies at home or in another non-medical environment, you want to call your paramedics or rescue squad first. You can also obtain assistance by calling 911. Even though the death has already occurred, its always best to call for assistance. Sometimes there may be a chance for revival and it is often paramedics first on the scene who will be able to determine that. If the death is unquestionable, calling a funeral director or mortician is a good idea since they will begin the process of the final arrangements. An unnecessary trip to the hospital is not required and can be costly. Call your family physician to confirm the death. Call the coroner or report the death if the paramedics do not. If police are involved, the body will be taken to the coroner's office for questionable deaths.
Death in the Home After An Illness
Contact the attending physician or nursing agency to confirm death. If the doctor is onsite when death occurs, he may sign the death certificate at that time.
Death Due to an Accident
The body normally will be taken to the coroner's office or hospital. A medical professional or someone in authority will need to determine the cause of death for the certificate.
Death in a Hospital
When death occurs in a medical facility, a member of the staff will contact the attending physician of the deceased or in some cases, will contact a hospital physician to determine death cause for the certificate.
Death in a Nursing Home
If a doctor has been in attendance and cared for the deceased, he can usually determine cause of death and sign the certificate.
Death Away from Home
If you are present at the time of death, notify local paramedics or coroner's office to get assistance. You will need to notify your immediate family members. If it was an accident that caused the death, you want to notify immediate family members once the body has been taken by the authorities to the hospital or county medical examiner's office. You want to be sure you know where the body will be taken.
If you have prearranged funeral plans, contact your funeral home and they will make arrangements in the city where the death occurred. They will in turn take care of arrangements such as cremation, embalming and transporting the body to the funeral home location.