In hospital

If your child dies in hospital

If your child dies in hospital a member of the medical staff will normally issue a medical certificate of death.

Issuing the medical certificate

In some circumstances doctors cannot issue a certificate immediately. For example, if there is uncertainty about the cause of death the doctor may be obliged to refer to the coroner. If this happens the coroner will decide whether a post-mortem is required. A post-mortem is a medical examination following a death. Referral to the coroner will delay the issuing of a medical certificate of death, but rarely for more than a few days.

Doctors may also talk to you about a post-mortem for other reasons, for example, to understand more about cancer so that other children may be helped. If the coroner is not involved, a post-mortem can only take place with your written consent. You should think about what feels right for you before making a decision. If you consent to a hospital post-mortem in this way it will not delay the issuing of a medical certificate of death.

An organ donation is not usually possible if your child has died following treatment for cancer.

Time with your child after death

The ward staff should arrange for you to have as much time as you need with your child after death. Hospital facilities vary, but your child can normally stay on the ward should you wish other family members to come and say goodbye. Most hospitals will also have a side ward or a special room which is more private.

At some point your child will need to be moved from the ward to the hospital mortuary while funeral arrangements are made. If you wish, arrangements may be made with the hospital staff for you to take your child to be with you at home before the funeral. Otherwise the funeral directors of your choice will make arrangements to collect your child and to take them to a chapel of rest.

Keeping memories

You may wish to ask for a lock of your child's hair, a photograph, a hand or a foot print. You can ask the ward staff to help you with any of your wishes.

You can also choose how your child is dressed. You can wash and dress your child, if you want to, and you can ask for someone to help. The most important thing is that you feel as comfortable as possible with the care of your child after their death.

It is important not to be rushed after your child has died as you will be left with the memories. However you choose to manage this time is absolutely OK.

Reviewed July 2014, next planned review 2017