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Somethings in life we wish we didn’t have to face and other things we just can’t avoid. Not just paying taxes but eventually, we will all reach the end of the road and our time is up. That’s right when life passes you by and time to move onto the next life. Death is a fact of life, but it’s something we don’t like to think about – until we lose someone close to us and have to face the fact.
You may be wise to know your rights and obligations when the time comes.
A post mortem will automatically be scheduled if the deceased has not visited a doctor within three months.
For the family, this alone can be a traumatic experience. It can also cause further delays in saying farewell. To avoid such a situation, it is important, especially for the elderly or those with health issues, to visit a doctor for a regular check-up – at least quarterly.
Ambulance officers do not remove the deceased body, you are advised to call the police rather than an ambulance in the event of an unexpected death at home or if you are in doubt. Of course, if they still have a pulse, call an ambulance!
If no doctor is available and the body must be taken to the nearest State Hospital mortuary by the Government contracted funeral director, this is no cost to you and no fee is due.
You may wish to contact your family priest or minister of faith and speak about spiritual guidance during this time.
If a death occurs at home and the deceased has been under the care of a doctor, then also call your doctor. If for any reason a doctor is unavailable, the police will arrange for the body to be taken to the nearest mortuary. Once a death certificate has been issued, the body will be released into the care of a funeral director of your choice.
If the death occurs in a hospital, when you are ready, the body will be taken to the hospital mortuary. You then have to make arrangements through a funeral director. Most nursing home residents have already nominated their funeral director. Staff will immediately notify you if you are not already in attendance. A doctor’s certificate is still required and once issued, the body will then be released into the care of the funeral director.
Never feel rushed or pressured. You have every right to take the time to sit with the deceased until you are ready for the body to be removed. You are not bound by any pre-existing funeral arrangements. A pre-arrangement is a free service, not an obligation. It is an opportunity for an individual to list their wishes for their own funeral service.
However things can change as time goes by, and these arrangements are not an order but a guide to take pressure off at a time when it is difficult to think clearly.
You will probably already have discussed if there is to be a burial or cremation. For a cremation, it is important to also obtain and complete Government forms for permission to cremate before the body is released into the care of the funeral home.
If you know the deceased had wished to donate their organs it’s important to move quickly as the process of donation needs to happen soon after death. If the person dies in a hospital the staff can check that the person is a registered donor via the Australian Organ Donor Register (The Donor Register lets authorised medical staff who have permission from the Australian Government check your donation information anywhere in Australia, 24 hours a day, seven days a week).
If you are struggling, a good place to seek help is via your GP, who can refer you to a counsellor or psychologist if needed. Otherwise, here are plenty of places to seek out support and assistance when you are grieving – here are some organisations that can be found online: Beyond Blue, Lifeline.