Reporting a Natural Death
In the case of a natural death occurring at home or anywhere outside of a care home, the police may not always be required to attend. In B.C., the Coroner’s Act defines when either the coroner or police must be notified of a person’s death.
When violence is involved, the coroner or police must be notified. Additionally, if someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly for unknown causes the police must be notified.
If the person is obviously deceased, you can call your local police directly. However, if there is any doubt about whether the person can be resuscitated, call 911 and ask for an ambulance. Paramedics will contact police for you if the person cannot be resuscitated.
If someone is in palliative care and chooses to spend their final days at home, health care staff will provide guidance to the family, and police may not be required; however in all other circumstances – even if someone has ongoing health issues but dies unexpectedly – the coroner or police do need to be contacted.
What happens after I call?
When you call police, an officer will come by to speak with you and get some information about the deceased’s medical history and the circumstances of their death. Police will notify the coroner, who may also attend. A victim services worker may also come with the police officer, to speak with family and offer support.
If the death appears to be natural, police or the coroner can arrange for the deceased to be transported directly to the funeral home of the family’s choice without first needing to go to hospital, so that funeral arrangements can be made at a later date.
Police officers are here to help you, and we can notify another family member on your behalf, or arrange for a friend to stay with you. Having an understanding about what to do if a loved one dies can help you to have answers to questions ahead of time, and instead focus on remembering and celebrating the life of the person who has passed.
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