Guidelines for the facilities and operation of hospital and forensic mortuaries

8. Responding to bereaved relatives

Page last updated: 2004

    8.1 Availability of Skilled Personnel

    The hospital or institution responsible for the management of the mortuary must ensure that appropriately skilled personnel are available to respond to inquiries from family members and provide assistance to bereaved families. Mortuary staff occupying technical roles alone should not have this responsibility.

    8.2 Obtaining Next of Kin Agreement for the Autopsy

    The process for obtaining agreement from next of kin for an autopsy to take place in non-coronial autopsies and the forms documenting this agreement must be in accordance with the National Code of Ethical Autopsy Practice. The medical officer who will perform the autopsy is responsible for checking that the relevant documents have been appropriately completed and signed prior to commencing the autopsy.
    Bereaved families are entitled to full, timely, sensitive, open and honest communication regarding all aspects of the autopsy, including the need for retention of whole organs, tissue samples and body fluids for further examination.
    The mortuary must have in place documented procedures for communicating information to next of kin regarding the autopsy.
    A written record should be kept of any special requests made by family members.