Relatives who fear their loved ones have died are being asked to check the body to make sure using a grim DIY checklist – The Sun
The guidance, branded “stark and clinical”, was issued when doctors and nurses were overwhelmed during the pandemic’s peak.
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It means families can confirm a relative has died — allowing them to contact funeral directors.
If they need help they are asked to contact a doctor via a video call.
The document asks: “Is rigor mortis present (is the body stiff)?”
If the family think the answer is no they are asked to carry out three more checks. They are told:
“Check pupils are dilated and do not respond to light in both eyes from mobile phone torch.”
It adds: “Check no chest wall movements for three minutes by observing the chest (exposing the chest may be necessary).
The third asks relatives to “locate site of cartoid pulse (using video advice from guiding clinician if required) and check that pulse is absent for at least one minute.
“Absent heartbeat using a stethoscope may provide further confirmation.’’
According to the document if the body is stiff relatives can note time of death and details including the name of their doctor.
Last month eight senior coroners in London wrote to the British Medical Association expressing unease with the guidelines.
They said: “We do not consider that it is an acceptable position for untrained funeral directors or family members to verify life extinct.
“Diagnosis of death is a clinical one undertaken by a competent adult with the appropriate skills and training.
“It is, in our view, inappropriate for a person who is not suitably trained to recognise death.”
They even claimed that it could lead to families reporting that patients were dead when they were still alive.
Their statement said: “There are some clinical conditions whereby patients are deeply unconscious, with very shallow irregular respirations.
'Doesn’t bear thinking about'
"The checks set out in the guidance may fail to correctly diagnose these patients.’’
Dr Bharat Pankhania, at Exeter University, said: “The guidance does sound very distressing.
“The language used is stark and clinical and devoid of emotion, maybe it should be communicated in a softer, gentler way.’’
A district nurse added: “Families are already grief-stricken and now in some cases they are being asked to verify the death because some doctors don’t want to come out (to the home) as they are worried about coronavirus.
“Imagine being asked to make these checks.
“It doesn’t bear thinking about.”
Alison Hewitt, who led the London Bridge terror inquest, and Fiona Wilcox, who is heading the Grenfell Tower inquest, have criticised the guidelines.
Dr Rosie Benneyworth, of the Care Quality Commission, said: “The law in England allows for any competent person to verify death if they feel confident to do so.
But it may not be something that a non-clinician has done in the past and can be emotionally testing.”
The BMA said: “The process of verifying a death must be swift, pragmatic and have the wellbeing of those close to the deceased at its heart.
“If relatives or friends wish to support this process before the funeral director arrives, care needs to be taken to ensure this is appropriate and conducted sensitively.”
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