Making funeral arrangements and release of body
You may contact a funeral director of your choice as soon as the person has died, without waiting for the Coroner to release the body. As soon as the autopsy (if there is one) and identification have been done, the person's body will be released to your funeral director.
If you wish to object to a post mortem examination do not set a date for the funeral as the objection process may take some time. Once you have engaged a funeral director, he or she will contact the Coroner's staff on your behalf to make the necessary arrangements. The Coroner's staff cannot recommend a particular funeral director, but there is a list in the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory.
You are not obliged to use the funeral director who transported the person's body for the Coroner after death.
Personal belongings and clothing
Personal belongings (e.g. jewellery) may be removed by the police and given to the family at the place of death. Otherwise, in Perth, personal belongings are sometimes given to the funeral director to return to the family. In country areas belongings are usually collected by the family at the relevant police station.
Clothing is returned to the funeral directors when they come to collect the body. In some cases clothing is damaged. You may want to discuss with your funeral director what happens to this clothing. Some items may need to be retained for forensic examination. If you have any queries, contact your funeral director, the Coronial Investigation Unit or your local Police Station in regional areas.
Getting a Death Certificate
When all the coronial investigations have been completed the Coroner's office passes information on to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages so that the death can be registered. The Registry is responsible for issuing an official Death Certificate. In some cases the investigations may take a considerable time to be completed, depending on issued involved and the various organizations conducting the investigations e.g. detectives, Worksafe Inspectors etc. In these cases a provisional death certificate can be obtained. For many legal purposes a provisional death certificate is sufficient.
Many funeral directors include the cost of a full Death Certificate in the funeral expenses - if so, you will receive the certificate in the mail automatically. Otherwise, if you want the full certificate you will have to pay a fee to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. (Registrar General's Office, level 10 Westralia Square, 141 St Georges terrace, Perth - Telephone (08) 9264 1555).
Many ill or injured people can be helped by receiving a tissue transplant from a person who has just died. Tissue donation usually involves either heart valves, skin, bone or a cornea (a part of the eye).
What about organ donation?
Organ donation is quite different. It can only take place if the death has occurred in certain circumstances; the person must have died at hospital, usually in intensive care and always on a ventilator, so that their circulatory system is still intact. This means that organ donation is not a possibility in most Coroners' cases. If you wish to discuss organ and tissue donation you can contact the Donor Co-ordinator, DonateWest, on (08) 9346 3333.
You may be contacted DonateWest
Each person whose body is brought to the State Mortuary is considered for suitability as a tissue donor. Transplant Co-ordinators from DonateWest contact the family in suitable cases as soon as possible after the person has died because a donation of tissue needs to be made within 12-24 hours of the donor's death.
Records of tissue donors and transplant recipients are confidential and are managed separately from each other at the Centre. There is no link between the two, but families of donors can sometimes be given general information about how donated tissue has been used to help someone.
Who can agree to a donation?
Consent to tissue donation must be given by the person's 'senior available next-of-kin' this means the first in order of priority of the following person who is available at the time.
If the person was under 18 years of age at the time of death (a child) :
if the child has both a spouse, and a de facto partner who has attained the age of 18 years, the spouse or de facto partner with whom the child is living as a spouse or de facto partner;
the spouse, or de facto partner who has attained the age of 18 years, of the child;
a parent of the child;
a brother or sister, who has attained the age of 18 years, of the child;
a guardian of the child.
For any person other than a child :
if the person has both a spouse, and a de facto partner who has attained the age of 18 years, the spouse or de facto partner with whom the person is living as a spouse or de facto partner;
the spouse, or de facto partner who has attained the age of 18 years, of the person;
a son or daughter, who has attained the age of 18 years, of the person;
a parent of the person;
a brother or sister, who has attained the age of 18 years, of the person.
Before he or she died the person may have expressed a wish to donate tissue, or may have registered as an organ or tissue donor. This knowledge can help a family to come to their own decision. However, it is up to the family, and if the family decides against donation, DonateWest will always respect the family's wishes, regardless of what the person themselves may have wanted.