Caring for Deceased persons – your questions answered

In response to some of our most frequently asked questions, we have written a series of posts on those topics which require further explanation

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Abi Pattenden, Manager of Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors
Abi Pattenden, Manager of Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors, explains the company’s policy on caring for Deceased persons

Freeman Brothers has been carrying out funerals in Sussex and Surrey since 1855. As we have been so long established as Funeral Directors, we have a good sense of some of the most common questions people have around funerals. Taking feedback from colleagues in Horsham, Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint as to what we are asked frequently, we have produced a series of blog posts addressing some of these issues.

Today, we will be looking at how and where we look after a person in our care, as well as trying to explain why some other firms might do things differently.

We are very frequently asked where a person will be looked after until the time of the funeral. As with a lot of the questions we are asked, the answers depends to an extent on the circumstances surrounding the death.

It is firstly worth bearing in mind that the place of death may have a bearing on where the person who has died is cared for initially. For example, most large hospitals will have mortuary facilities where a person can be stored appropriately afterwards if they have died there, and the hospital will probably not release them from their care without some sort of authority from a next of kin or Executor. This means they cannot be collected straightaway. Hospitals without a mortuary may avail themselves of a local funeral directors’ facilities. In any situation where the person’s death is expected – for example, if they have been unwell – and they are to be cremated, two doctors have to physically see them after the death. The first of these will usually be related to their last place of care and so if, for example, someone dies in a hospital which has a mortuary, they will probably remain there until after this paperwork is done. This might be a similar case if someone has died in one area but needs to have their funeral elsewhere – it may not be practical to move them a long distance until it is known that their doctor (who will probably not be able to travel any more than a short distance in order to view the body) has satisfied themselves as to the cause of death, and so again it might be practical to use a local funeral director’s services until this is completed and a transportation to the place of the funeral is able to be arranged. In some cases, it might be necessary to transport a person to a hospital for this paperwork to take place – if, for example, they have died shortly after being released and the hospital doctor is best placed to carry out this function, which might mean a stay in the hospital’s mortuary even if the death was elsewhere.

There is also the consideration of those cases where the death is unexpected. Of course, this is a particularly stressful time and we are often asked about where a person will be looked after in this circumstance. This will vary according to local arrangements but Coroner’s services usually have a designated mortuary where the people whose deaths they are investigating are cared for; this is sometimes in a local hospital, as happens with people who die in West Sussex (who are taken to the East Surrey or Worthing Hospitals, depending on where in the county the death has taken place) and sometimes their own facility (as in Brighton, whose Coroner’s service has its own mortuary). Once the coroner’s investigation is concluded, the nominated funeral director will be given permission to collect the Deceased person from this temporary resting place and bring him or her into their own care.

Sometimes it is very hard for families to think of their loved one being in a place far away from the local area and there is often an impulse to wish for the person to be brought back as soon as possible, but no funeral director is able to contravene a hospital or coroner’s policy, although most will share the desire for the collection to take place as soon as possible so that the work of preparing them for their funeral and any visits to the Chapel of Rest can begin in a timely fashion. (It is worth mentioning that some funeral directors – for example, those who provide only cremation-only types of service – may use a hospital or other funeral director’s facilities in lieu of their own, and this should always be explained to the family to ensure they are happy with this arrangement.)

Once these formalities are concluded, the question we are often asked is about our own storage facilities and where our individual clients will rest until their funeral. At Freeman Brothers, we have always taken the view that it is better that the person rests locally and so we have always ensured that all of our branches have fully equipped facilities, which enable the person who has died to be looked after and prepared with dignity and respect. This is helpful if there are last-minute requests to see someone or place something in the coffin, and can be useful if our staff member who has arranged the funeral has a need to see them personally for any reason – for example, to witness the removal of a piece of jewellery which is wanted back by the family.

This is not to say that other firms who are doing things differently are necessarily doing something wrong. Many firms, especially larger ones, may have a central facility which they may call a ‘hub’ or ‘care centre’, and all the people they are taking care of at their various funeral homes may rest there. This will typically be where their staff whose roles involve caring for the Deceased person are based, and it is usually for practical reasons – if you have a lot of branches spread out, then you may not be able to justify the staff time in travelling to and fro. Under this system, Deceased people will be transported to the local facility for any viewings in the Chapel of Rest. As long as this is explained to the bereaved family and friends, and they are happy with the arrangement, there are no issues with the approach, although it is our experience that most people prefer to think of their loved one being looked after in a smaller, more local facility, by staff who they can speak to. Local facilities also make it easier if the family’s wish or religious requirements mean they want to be involved in the preparation process, which is sometimes the case.

Wherever the Deceased person is being kept, it should be appropriate for use, well-maintained, and have the necessary facilities and resources to ensure the people being cared for there can be treated with the levels of dignity and respect that anyone would expect. If anyone asks to see our facilities, we are always happy to oblige (after only a short pause to ensure that any Deceased people present have their privacy respected), and this is the ultimate test. Any funeral director who is not willing to present their facilities at short notice should be treated with caution.

If there are any further questions about how Deceased people are cared for at Freeman Brothers, please do contact us – we’ll be happy to assist.


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Written by Abi Pattenden


July 10, 2019

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