“Expected” vs. “Unexpected” Death

Aug 31, 2009 | 0 comments

“Expected” deaths, which happen in settings such as hospitals, nursing homes or hospice settings, still manage to seem “unexpected.” Whether a death is a complete surprise or not, here are a few things that happen on the way to a funeral.

The first call in an “expected” death goes to the primary doctor or hospice provider for the deceased, to facilitate pronouncement. Emergency room doctors can also record pronouncement. After the time of death is officially recorded, the body can be moved and preparations made for final disposition of the body. The second call would be to a funeral director, if previous arrangements have been made. If arrangements aren’t already in place, a boatload of decisions will need to be made under duress.

Chances are, you’d be in the same boat with an “unexpected” death, such as an auto accident, suicide, homicide, when a person under the age of 18 dies or a body is discovered under mysterious circumstances. A police officer, coroner or medical investigator will make the pronouncement to the best of their ability given the circumstances.

By health code, a body has to be processed within 24 hours – before decomposition begins – in one of four ways: refrigerate, embalm, cremate, or bury. Embalming and refrigeration give the family a few more days with the body before cremation or burial, allowing distant relatives to travel for a funeral. Both Jews and Muslims are prohibited from embalming and those religions dictate burial within 24 to 72 hours.

The funeral director or the Office of the Medical Investigator prepares death certificates, with information completed by a medical certifier. You might be surprised at the information you need to supply about the deceased. In addition to their legal name, you need any AKAs (also known as), Social Security number, birth date and place, marital status at death, mother’s name prior to first marriage, military service discharge information, and more. If you’d like a full listing of information usually requested for a death certificate, drop me a line!

A Good Goodbye