After Death Choices

Care of a patient and their family doesn’t end when the resident dies. There are arrangements that need to be made to meet the wishes of residents.

The staff  need to be familiar with the details of relevant legal requirements. This can vary among the states and territories. The client’s body will not be able to leave the premises until the body has been verified as dead by an authorised person. The RN needs to ensure that all relevant people have been consulted and all special needs at the time of death have been attended to. This includes religious and cultural observances and time for the family to be with their loved one.
The RN must be aware of state government requirements for reporting deaths to the coroner.

Brain / body donation

Sometimes residents have made a prior decision to donate their body to science or for their brain to be donated for research. These are separate programs and it is not possible for one donor to donate to both programs.

Body donations are normally managed by one University Pathology Department or Medical School in each capital city. Not all donations will be accepted. A donation may be refused if:

  • the resident has an infectious illness which could pose an OHS&W risk to staff and students handling the body
  • death occurs over Christmas New Year when staff may not be available to accept the donation
  • in the case of body donation, there has been an autopsy or if the person was very emaciated
  • the body does not arrive at the mortuary service within 24 hours.

To ensure that the resident’s wishes are carried out:

  • care plan should include details of actions staff will need to take at time of death
  • contact details for donation program should be included in care plan
  • the GP should be aware of donation, and procedures in place to ensure a death certificate can be signed in time for the donation to be accepted
  • the university or pathology service managing the donation should be contacted promptly after death. There are time constraints for transfer of the body to the mortuary service
    • they will usually arrange transfer of the body and pay for the costs.

Contact details of Australian brain donation programs are available on the University of Sydney website or for more information, the Australian Brain Bank Network website.

Funeral expenses

Sometimes residents have limited means to pay for a funeral. They may not have a close relative or friend either who can pay for a funeral. There may be assistance available for some residents under the following schemes.


  • Veterans and their partners may be eligible for financial assistance with bereavement and funeral costs; DVA Fact Sheet BR04

People without means

  • Most state governments have a procedure for providing a dignified burial or cremation for people without means. Details vary from state to state and they may or may not include a service that family and friends can attend
  • Information is available on some state health department websites. The social work departments of major public hospitals will also have information on funeral assistance programs

Indigenous peoples

Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Associations may provide funeral assistance to Indigenous Persons.

After death care

Funeral expenses

  • In the ACT, there is information available on the Funeral assistance page of the ACT Government website.
  • Information regarding funeral assistance in Queensland can be found on the Queensland Courts website.
  • In South Australia, through Funeral AssistanceSA there is provision for persons without means to have a dignified funeral. The arrangements are explained in the Funeral Assistance Program brochure (64kb pdf).
  • Information for Aboriginal people in NSW seeking assistance with funeral costs is available on the Funeral Assistance Grants page of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council website.
  • Aboriginal residents may also be able to access help through the Aboriginal Community Funeral Plan:
    • the plan can be contacted on 1800 622 924.

Last updated 09 July 2019