When someone dies at home – what to do and who to call?

When someone dies at home – what to do and who to call?

1. Call a doctor to certify the cause of death 
The most common instinct is to call for an ambulance when you realise someone has passed on at home. While it is technically “not wrong”, this will land you a few extra steps in the body collection process.

The paramedics will arrive and pronounce the death of the deceased. However, they will NOT be able to issue the Certificate of Cause of Death (CCOD). They may then advise you to call in a doctor or bring the deceased’s body to the hospital for a doctor to issue the CCOD before you will be allowed to call an undertaker for the embalming process.

So when someone passes on at home, you either:
a. Call your family doctor who has been attending to the deceased to make a trip to issue a CCOD
b. Call a mobile doctor to do an outcall and inform him/her of the death, so the doctor may make the necessary preparations to issue the CCOD

Note: If the doctor is unable to issue the CCOD (due to suspected case of an unnatural death), call the police. The deceased will be transported to the Mortuary at HSA in a police hearse. The police will then inform the family to go to the Mortuary (usually the next day) to collect the body. Further details in point 3 below. 

2. Engage a funeral director and obtain a death certificate

Upon obtaining the Certificate of Cause of Death (either at home or the Mortuary), the family may engage a funeral home that will:

(i) collect the body of the deceased from the home or the mortuary;
(ii) begin the embalming (if required) process; and
(iii) transport the body of the deceased to the location of the wake.

Obtaining the death certificate
A death certificate is different from the CCOD. You will need to obtain a CCOD before a death certificate can be produced. To obtain a death certificate:

– Proceed to the nearest police station
– Bring along the CCOD, Identification document/s of the deceased and informant
– Decide if the body is to be buried or cremated

3. Others

a. If the body has been transported to the Mortuary @ HSA, you will need to bring:

  • All medical documentations related to the deceased e.g. diagnosis, medical reports etc
  • All medicine taken by the deceased 
  • Identification paper/s of the deceased and informant e.g. NRIC/ Passport/ Certificate of Registration of Birth/ FIN card
  • The police will facilitate the viewing and identification of the deceased. A coroner will be present and determine whether to order an autopsy to be carried out – so be sure to bring along all medications and documentations of the deceased if he/she is expected to have died a natural death. If not, the coroner may order an autopsy.

b. Bank account of the deceased
You will need to present the death certificate of the deceased to inform the bank of the deceased’s death. The bank will proceed to freeze all assets including savings account, current account, savings, investments etc. If the deceased owns a joint account, the rights of the account will be transferred to the surviving party.

c. Deceased mobile phone
Upon the confirmation of the wake location, the next thing you might likely do is to inform the deceased contacts of his/her passing. However, most mobile phones are protected with a password and you may find yourself having trouble with unlocking the deceased phone to access his contact list.

i. Will the phone company (Apple) unlock the passcode if i prove my loved one has passed on?
Ans: No, Apply security will protect everyone’s privacy even after their death. If you want your heir to access to your phone upon your death, you may provide the passcode of your phone in your will.

ii. So what can i do?
Ans: If your loved one is fighting a terminal illness, you may advise him/her to switch the lock to a fingerprint lock and get permission to perform the unlock upon his/her passing. Upon his/her death, unlock the phone as soon as possible. If this is not done quickly enough, the deceased fingerprints may wrinkle and the phone may not be able to identify the fingerprint.