On whose authority (2)

Charles 2 Comments

Back on 1 Feb 2010 I wrote a post which began: It’s an interesting fact that a funeral director can go to a hospital mortuary and collect a dead person to bring back to their funeral home on the verbal instruction of that dead person’s executor. It attracted a lively discussion. You can read it all here.

I have just had an email which sets things out according to the understanding of someone who works in a mortuary. I am very grateful to this person for taking so much time to do this for us. It is so cogent I decided at once to post it. The writer of what follows did not see the comments on the original post because when this blog was transmigrated from Blogger the comments did not come with it. I have just copied and pasted the comments from Blogger.  Here goes:

I came across your page while doing a work-related search.  In the first article on page https://www.goodfuneralguide.co.uk/category/funeral-directors/page/4/ there are a number of incorrect facts.  I’m aware this page is a year old, but as it is still appearing in search results, I thought it might be helpful if I highlighted them for you.

First, it is not true now, nor was it when you posted that blog entry that a funeral director can turn up at any mortuary to collect a deceased body without written authorisation.  There have, in the past, been a few exceptions to this, and on the request of some families there may still be exceptions, but the vast majority of NHS hospitals and public mortuaries will require sight of a copy of the registrar’s “green” certificate (which has to be provided to the FD by the person who has registered the death), or a copy of the CR6 (issued by the coroner to the FD as instructed by the NOK), and in addition most require a release form or (as they’ve now been renamed) a Transfer of Care form, signed by the person making the funeral arrangements (normally the executor or NOK.  Any mortuary which does not ask for such forms is working outside the code of practice issued by the AAPT(uk) – the professional body for mortuary workers.

Your other contributor on that page refers to a “NHS Mortician”.  Mortician is an American term which usually refers to a funeral director, and most mortuary workers see this as a derogatory term.  People working in the NHS mortuaries are generally known as Anatomical Pathology Technologists, Mortuary Technicians, Mortuary Porters, Pathology Technicians or other derivative of these terms, depending on their trust’s policy.  Reputable mortuary workers will be known as APTs, and will be registered with the AAPT to ensure good practice and common standards of conduct.  The AAPT are normally very willing to answer questions of professional conduct when contacted.

In the case of your contributors comment, which is unfortunate to say the least, there is a problem for us all which is not highlighted.

The clothing which was removed with the deceased in a plastic bag, and was retained with the deceased for burial would – if it had been removed from the deceased – be classed as clinical waste.  Any sheet, shroud, clothing, or property which is soiled from having been in contact with the body is classed as such, and is therefore subject to certain restrictions.  Any such waste we dispose of from our premises, has to be collected by a licensed contractor and disposed of appropriately.  We are not licensed, and therefore not permitted to move clinical waste, even between our own branches!  In the case of soiled clothing, there is a grey area.  On the one hand, it is always preferable to return property to the deceased’s family.  On the other, removing it from the deceased makes it clinical waste, and we may be committing an offence simply by allowing that family to transport those possessions home.  In doing so may inadvertently cause a health hazard to them and others, which nobody would want.

Hospitals will normally discus the property they hold with the deceased when the executor/NOK comes to obtain the medical certificate, and most FDs (well the good ones anyway) will ask when the funeral arrangements are made.  Where clothing is concerned, if we get any from the mortuary, we ask the family what they want done with it, and we advise them of its condition so that they can make an informed decision. Other FDs may take the view that it is safer and better practice simply to dispose of the clothing to avoid the potential problems and possible distress caused to family.


  1. Charles

    It gets kindov complex these days innit!

    Thanks for posting this – not many folk know the clinical waste rules!!

    Sigh – life and death could be so much simpler.

    Keep up the good work Charlie.

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