Departments & Programs,UW Medical Foundation,Patient Resources,Social Work Services Quick Guide,Social Work Manual,Death & Dying
In the Event of a Patient's Death
In the Event of a Patient's Death - Departments & Programs, UW Medical Foundation, Patient Resources, Social Work Services Quick Guide, Social Work Manual, Death & Dying
Issues that need to be addressed
- When a patient's clinical status is consistent with the definition of imminent death (see below) OR when a patient dies and a prior report of imminent death has not been made to the OTD, the nurse caring for the patient is responsible for contacting the UW Organ Procurement Organization (OTD) at 1-866-UWHC-OTD (1-866-894-2676) and notify the attending physician. UWHC Policy 4.21 (V)(B)(1).
- Determine whether the family would like spiritual support from one of our chaplains or another spiritual person they are familiar with
- Help the family identify which funeral home they would like to work with (Nursing Coordinators have access to a directory or utilize listings in SW Manual). Notify Nursing Coordinator (pager 7576). They will contact the funeral home.
- Family must complete applicable paperwork with the assistance of Nursing Coordinator:
- Authorization for Post-Mortem Examination (Autopsy)
- Transfer of Human Remains
- Anatomical Gift Form, if family decides to donate
- Autopsies are performed at no charge to families in the following conditions:
- Deceased was an inpatient at the time of death
- Deceased was under the active care of a physician in a UW Health clinic
- In some cases, autopsies are required by the coroner.
- Autopsy does not delay funeral arrangements. Autopsies are completed on the same day they are begun.
- Autopsy does not preclude open-casket funerals.
- Next-of-kin may specify autopsy restrictions as they see fit (e.g. ‘chest only’ ‘abdomen only’).
- Autopsy helps answer critical questions. In addition to providing families closure by establishing cause of death, autopsy can assist in:
- Determining whether there are hereditary diseases that other family members may be predisposed to
- Providing clinicians with important feedback regarding how therapeutic interventions and/or medications were working
- Identifying potential work-related disease processes that may allow family members to obtain benefits
- Obtaining necessary tissue samples for UW Institutional Review Board-approved researchers that may aid in new medical discoveries
- For further questions regarding autopsy, call 890-7075 (morgue) or 263-8899 (mortician) Monday through Friday 8am-5pm. After hours or on weekends, ask hospital paging to page the on-call medical autopsy resident/pathologist.
- If there is disagreement among family members about whether or not to have an autopsy or donate organs, the next of kin makes final decision (see Policy 4.31)
- The authority of POA legally ends at the patient’s death, though the wishes documented in the POA should ideally be followed. After death, decisions are made by next of kin.
- The patient’s body can be held in the morgue up to 48 hours before a decision is made as to which funeral home the family would like to use. If this decision is not made before the family leaves, have them page the Nursing Coordinator within this time frame.
- If a patient dies when they are an outpatient, notify Medical Records at 3-6525 and ask for the File Room Supervisor