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What happens when a child dies


When a child dies in hospital

The hospital should be able to offer your family a short blessing or ceremony for your child, or they can also call your own religious leader for you if required. The staff at the hospital will be fully trained to help you during this time and they will be able to offer specialist teams of staff who would be pleased to talk to you.
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You will be able to spend time with your child as a family, and any special toys or mementos will be able to stay with them if you desire. You can make up a rememberance card of foot/hand prints, a lock of hair and a photo if you would like, but talk to the nurses who can arrange this and if there is anything else you would like to know or need help, as they will be there to assist in anyway possible.

Most families will leave their child at the hosptial until they have contacted a funeral director. The hospital will take your child to rest in the hospital mortuary, but they will have a special room where you may want to go back and spend some time with your child, although this should be arranged with the senior nurse on the ward.

If there is no Coroner's referral or the need for a Post Mortem you may think about taking your child home, or somewhere else that you choose. If you do this before registering the death there will be some forms that will have to be completed and you will be given a letter of consent to take with you. Again please talk the nurses in charge who will guide you.


The Coroner

In some circumstances doctors cannot immediately issue a death certificate and they are then obliged to inform the Coroner. Usually this occurs because the doctor is uncertain of the cause of death, or the death has occurred very suddenly or soon after an operation. The Coroner will then decide whether it will be necessary to have a postmortem examination. If a post-mortem is legally required by the Coroner, it will be carried out regardless of the family's wishes. The Coroner's Office will contact the family to tell them when to collect the form from the office. The Coroner then issues a form to be taken to the Registrar authorising the issue of a death certificate. The delay is rarely more than a few days.


Hospital Postmortem

The hospital's doctor may ask your permission to perform a postmortem, not for legal reasons, but to gain more information about your child's illness and to increase medical knowledge for the benefit of other children with a similar condition. If this is the case, the doctor will discuss it with you, explain what is involved and ask you to sign a consent form. It will not involve any delay in giving you the death certificate. The consent form states the nature and extent of the post-mortem examination, and your explicit permission is required for retention of any organ or tissue for any purpose. You will be given an explanatory booklet which may answer some of your questions.

Many parents find they have many questions unanswered as they think about the period of their child's illness and death. It can be helpful to come back to the hospital sometime later to talk over these questions.

The hospital should have a non religious book of rememberance that your child's details can be entered. If you would like your child to be included contact the hospital's Chaplain, who will be able to help.


When a child dies at home

When someone dies at home, their GP should be called as soon as possible. The GP will normally visit the house and, if the death was expected, should be able to issue a certificate giving the cause of death. If the person did not have a GP or you do not know the name of the GP, an ambulance should be called instead.

If a doctor is not able to issue a certificate, it is because they are unsure about the cause of death. The death must then be reported to a coroner. The body will be taken to a hospital mortuary, where a post mortem may need to take place.


*You should also be aware that if you have to call an ambulance the Police will be automatically called too. The ambulance crew will also try to resusitate your child, unless you have a "do not resusitate" letter from your hospital/GP.




When a parent dies, you lose your past; when a child dies, you lose your future. - Anonymous