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Postmortem

ALERT: Review facility specific procedures in conjunction with the information provided here.

  1. Notify organ procurement agency of death.
  2. Determine family's wishes for preparing and viewing the body.
  3. Determine if an autopsy will be performed, if specimens must be obtained, or if special orders must be   implemented.
  4. Check with family about notifying others. Call the funeral home.
  5. Consult institution policy for guidelines on care of body before tissue donation.
  6. Arrange for privacy, perform hand hygiene, and put on disposable gloves and gown.
  7. Following institution policy, identify the body and remove all indwelling catheters and other tubes (or leave them in place if an autopsy must be done). Dress puncture wounds with a small dressing and paper tape.
  8. If patient wore dentures, reinsert them. If mouth fails to close and if it is culturally appropriate to close mouth, place a rolled-up towel under chin.
  9. Position patient according to institution procedures or family's cultural preferences. Avoid placing one hand on top of the other. Place small pillow or folded towel under head or elevate head of bed 10 to 15 degrees.
  10. Close eyes gently by grasping eyelashes and pulling lids over corneas (unless religious preference is to keep eyes open).
  11. Determine if family wants patient left unshaven and if it was his custom to wear a beard. Otherwise, shave male patient.
  12. Wash body parts soiled by blood, urine, feces, or other drainage. Place an absorbent pad under patient's buttocks.
  13. Remove soiled dressings and replace with clean gauze dressings. Use paper tape.
  14. Place clean gown on patient.
  15. Brush and comb patient's hair. Remove clips, hairpins, or rubber bands.
  16. Clarify personal belongings that stay with body and those that go home with family.
  17. If significant others request viewing, place a clean sheet or light blanket over body up to chin with arms outside covers if possible. Remove unneeded equipment from room. Provide soft lighting and chairs.
  18. Encourage family to say goodbye through touch, talk, or religious rituals. Give them time to be alone with patient.
  19. After family leaves room, remove all linen and patient's gown (refer to institution policy). Place body in body bag or apply shroud.
  20. Label body. Note if patient has an infectious disease (follow institution policy).
  21. Arrange transportation of body to morgue or mortuary. If delay is anticipated before mortician arrives, keep body cool in morgue to prevent further tissue damage.
  22. Provide significant others with the opportunity to express feelings.
 
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