Many people wish to see the body of a loved one as soon as possible after death. To assist this to happen the Coroner’s staff make every effort to enable to release the body as soon as possible.
It is suggested that any viewings be arranged with your funeral director as their facilities are usually much more suitable.
Viewings at the funeral director should not be confused with the formal identification of the body arranged by the police.
Once the State Coroner has received the report outlining the cause of death, the next of kin will be formally notified of the official cause of death. The next of kin will also be notified when a decision is made whether or not an inquest is necessary or desirable.
The pathologist performing the post-mortem provides initial information to the Coroner’s Office immediately after the post-mortem. This is called the provisional cause of death.
Next of kin may find out the provisional case of death by telephoning the State Coroner’s Office in the afternoon of the day the post-mortem is conducted.
An approach to a funeral director should be made as soon as possible. The funeral director will liaise with the Coroner’s Office regarding the release of the body and make all necessary arrangements.
The body cannot be released until the post-mortem is complete and the body has been formally identified. In most cases the body is released within 48 hours, unless the death occurred over a weekend. This does not usually delay funeral arrangements. In a small number of cases there may be a delay in release, usually associated with difficulties in identification or related to the collection of evidence.
If organs have been retained for further testing you may wish to take this into account when deciding the date of the funeral.
If the body needs to be transported interstate or overseas you should arrange with a funeral director to prepare the body and the necessary documentation. The funeral director will also advise on the relative cost of transporting the body compared with a cremation and subsequent transport of the ashes of the deceased.
If a person dies in hospital, or is dead on arrival at a hospital, then that hospital will be responsible for personal items. Similarly, if the death occurs in an institution, property will remain with the institution for collection by next of kin.
If a person dies at home, personal items will either be handed to relatives by the police or taken for safe keeping to the local police station. If personal items are found when the body is admitted to the City Mortuary they will be sent for safe keeping to the Adelaide Police Station.
If the deceased is admitted to the City Mortuary the clothing is generally handed over to the funeral director. However, if the clothing is contaminated in any way it will be disposed of immediately. This is for occupational health and safety reasons. If the death occurs in a hospital, the clothing is held there.
Generally, valuables and clothing may be collected by the next of kin. However, if any of these items are required as evidence they will not be available until the police and the State Coroner have concluded their investigations.
Disputes over the ownership of valuables or any other property is not a coronial matter, and therefore coronial staff are not permitted to become involved. Such matters should be referred to the executor of the estate, and if there is no will, the Public Trustee.
Many ill or injured people can be helped by receiving a tissue transplant from a person who has just died. Tissue donation usually means either heart valves, skin, bone or a cornea (a part of the eye).
If the family gives their consent and the tissue donation does not interfere with the coroner’s investigation, the tissue is removed. Further tests are conducted on the tissue to make quite sure that it is suitable and safe for donation to another person.
It is very important to advise the State Coroner’s Office as soon as possible if the deceased is a tissue donor. Time is a critical factor in determining whether tissue can be used for transplantation.
Organ donation is quite different. It usually can only take place if the death has occurred in hospital, with the deceased on a ventilator, to keep the circulatory system intact. This means that organ donation is not a possibility in most coroner’s cases.
Once the State Coroner makes a finding and advises the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, the registrar will, upon application and payment of a fee, provide you with a full death certificate.
However, prior to a finding being made, the registrar is advised of the cause of death as soon as it is determined. At this point, the registrar is able to provide an interim death certificate. In some circumstances this may be used for processing legal documents. For example, access to money in bank accounts by a spouse, and for Centrelink purposes.
For further information, please see the Births Deaths and Marriages site at the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs (OCBA).
Before making an application to receive the Death Certificate from the Births, Deaths and Marriages Office, check with your funeral director to ensure that they have not already made the application on your behalf.
Every case is individual and different and so the time taken to investigate cases varies greatly. This often causes anxiety on the part of relatives. Next of kin are advised in writing once the cause of death is determined, once a finding is made, or if the decision is made to hold an inquest.
The State Coroner’s Office does not usually release detailed information about the circumstances of death until a finding has been made. To do so may compromise the investigation or provide incomplete and therefore misleading information to the next of kin.
Once a finding has been made, if you wish to view any other documents relating to the circumstances, you should speak or write to the Social Worker at the State Coroner’s Office