Guidelines for the facilities and operation of hospital and forensic mortuaries

6. Professional and ethical conduct in the mortuary

Page last updated: 2004

    6.1 Environment and Conduct of Staff

    The mortuary shall present a dignified environment staffed by courteous personnel who display respect towards the deceased and their families at all times.
    All persons who either work permanently or temporarily within the mortuary or have cause to visit the mortuary as part of their duties or for educational purposes shall conduct themselves with decorum at all times. They should be familiar with the contents of the WHO Document “Ethical Practice in Laboratory Medicine and Forensic Pathology”, Annexure 5 of that document “Code of Conduct for Forensic Mortuary Personnel” and Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council Subcommittee on Autopsy Practice “National Code of Ethical Autopsy Practice”.
    At the commencement of their employment in the mortuary, all staff shall undergo an induction process which shall include instruction on the required manner of communication with visitors to the mortuary and on general decorum during the conduct of their duties.
    Mortuary staff should change out of theatre clothing before entering areas of the mortuary where they may be visible to bereaved families or other members of the public.
    The management of the mortuary shall have clear responsibility for ensuring that the mortuary operates within a climate of dignified professionalism and respect for the deceased such as to inspire community confidence in the appropriateness of its procedures.
    Food or drink should not be consumed or stored within the mortuary or autopsy facility.

    6.2 Complaints

    Dealing effectively and without delay with complaints concerning the mortuary or its staff should be accorded a very high priority. Records should be kept of the identities of the originator and recipient of the complaint, the nature of the complaint and the action taken to resolve the issue. The pathologist or manager of the mortuary shall notify the senior administrator of the administering institution of all serious complaints as soon as possible after they are received.