Who Is That?

Have you ever wondered how we identify the deceased? You might have done, you might assume you already know, but I have a feeling you may be wrong or not quite know the truth. Let me explain what happens with the deceased who can’t simply tell you who they are.

You probably have seen toe tags on television, the little pieces of card or paper on string that attach to the big toe of the deceased. In my experience I have never seen these used at all, either by mortuaries or funeral directors alike. The way that I have seen used by everyone is a wristband, or preferably two wristbands with one on a wrist and one around an ankle. Both wristbands must match and that information must have at least three points of identification which preferably should be name, date of birth and address of that person. These are placed on the deceased by either someone who is able to identify them, like a caregiver, or by someone who has had confirmation of their identity by someone who knows them.

The reason for the three pieces of information is logical, while you could have two people with the same name and date of birth it is unlikely that they would then both live at the same address. Our license to run our facility issued by the Human Tissue Authority states that we must complete three point checks of the deceased to ensure we identify correctly. Other points of identification that can be used could be place of death (if different to home address), date of death or any other unique identifier like NHS or hospital number.

In some cases, we receive people to the mortuary who are unknown and have not been identified by anyone prior to them coming to us. In those situations we call them unknown first name, unknown surname. We can, however, still have three points of identification for these people on a wristband which will clearly denote which unknown person they are and these are date of death, place of death and a police reference number. These people will usually have an identification viewing from a family member who will identify them and then we will apply new wristbands with up to date information for them.

Any issue with identity, for example mismatching or clearly incorrect wristbands will mean that someone who knows that person will need to come and identify them. In the case of hospital deaths we can ask a nurse or member of staff who treated that patient to complete this, for community deceased we can first ask the funeral director who collected them to complete it. We take the identity of the deceased very seriously and resolve any doubts or issues as a priority.

I hope this little insight into our identification process was interesting. If you have any questions or would like me to go into further detail regarding anything at all please get in touch!

MG x

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