What Happens After an Unnatural Death?

An unnatural death can come out of the blue. Even if you are prepared for the death of a loved one because they had an illness you’re still shocked when death comes.

When the phone rings in the middle of the night with the shocking news that your next of kin has been killed it can take months or years to recover from the shock.

Unnatural death can be:

  • Road accident.
  • Fall.
  • Shooting.
  • Stabbing.
  • Suicide.
  • Poisoning.
  • Drowning.
  • Workplace accident.

Quite a few people die on the operating table and then the medico-legal  aspects can be terribly stressful. Legal documents, arranging post-mortems and litigation must all be arranged.

An Unnatural Death Results in a Post Mortem

In South Africa the number of people dying of unnatural causes is soaring. One out of ten deaths is the result of unnatural causes. It will either be the doctor or the police who will notify the State Coroner of a death that is unnatural.

A benefit with a post-mortem is that it provides substantial information about

Unnatural Death

the deceased person’s medical condition before death occurred. It also gives a clue surrounding the factors that could have contributed to their death.

Sometimes the Coroner requests an inquest. This can be distressing, especially when the Coroner wants an inquest to look at all the evidence about the death. The Coroner will ask experts and witnesses to give evidence in court about what happened. There are different procedures to follow according to where the person died,

If the person died of unnatural causes in hospital these are the general procedures to follow:

  • Phone your funeral home because they can tell you what to do. They’ve handled similar cases many times.
  • The hospital staff will automatically contact the South African Police Services (SAPS).
  • Share the news with family.
  • Forensic Pathology Services will collect the body. People often think that its the time to remove jewellery or even medical devices. This is not so.Because this is an unnatural death everything should be left as it is. Do not to tamper with any evidence.
  • You may have the attending doctor attend the autopsy with the permission of the attending forensic medical practitioner.
  • A Notification of Death will be issued by the pathologist stating the cause of death.
  • The deceased will need to be identified by a family member or friend. Some people baulk at the idea of doing this. There are some reputable funeral directors who make it their duty to assist people with the identification process by accompanying them. Once the identification is complete, a body number is issued to the family. This should be handed over to the funeral home.
  • The funeral director will then go ahead with the necessary funeral arrangements.
  • If the deceased had a funeral policy give the policy details to the funeral director.
  • Find the deceased’s will to determine if there were any special instructions for a funeral.


Smooth the Rocky Path Ahead

Violent crime is used in South Africa to resolve issues and achieve goals. It is a good idea to be equipped with the right information so you know what lies ahead if you confronted with an unnatural death.

Finding yourself caught up in an unnatural death situation in South Africa spells rocky times. Knowing the procedure to following can make the road ahead smoother.

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All info was correct at time of publishing