What to Do When Death Occurs
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There are few things in life more traumatic than the death of a family member. Please do not hesitate to contact our office with any questions you may have, we will be glad to answer them as completely as possible. If we can not answer your questions, we can put you in touch with someone who can. This section will explain what to do when a death occurs.
- State Laws Regarding A Death
Pennsylvania Department of Health(DOH) does not require a deceased be pronounced dead. However, usually hospital, nursing home or hospice policy require it, if this is the case a registered nurse can pronounce and release the deceased to the funeral home if the death was anticipated. In all other cases, only a medical doctor can pronounce and release the deceased to the funeral home. In addition, deaths occurring under certain circumstances must be referred to the County Medical Examiner/Coroner who will become responsible for legally releasing the deceased to the funeral home after review.
- General Guidelines
Regardless of when and where a death occurs, the family should call us as soon as possible. At that time we will ask some specific questions, such as the name and location of the family member who passed away, the name of the attending physician and the name of the next of kin. If you are undecided about the type of service, you need not make any immediate decisions. We will allow you adequate time to make them and provide you with prices of various options ahead of time to assist you. Finally, we will set up a convenient appointment time to make the actual arrangements, either in person or over the telephone.
- Death in a Health Care Facility
When a death occurs in a hospital or nursing home, there is little the family needs to do other than to call us. The medical staff at the health care facility will take the necessary steps to ensure that all legal requirements are met. Although some health care facilities will call Semian Funeral Directors on behalf of the family, this is the exception rather than the rule. To be safe, it is best that the family calls us directly.
- Anticipated Death Outside A Health Care Facility
Many people with terminal illnesses are now choosing to die at home in more familiar and peaceful surroundings with family and friends close by. If an anticipated death occurs outside a health care facility, the first step would be to call the hospice organization or physician under whose care the individual was receiving medical treatment. The hospice nurse or physician would then release the deceased to Semian Funeral Directors.
- Unanticipated Death Outside A Health Care Facility
If a sudden death occurs outside of a health care facility, the best advise is to call 911 to dispatch local police to the scene. The police will then determine the appropriate steps to take depending upon the particular situation. In the case of a non-suspicious death of an apparently healthy individual, the police would call the Medical Examiner/Coroner's office and await instructions. The Medical Examiner/Coroner, depending upon the circumstances, may require that an autopsy be performed. If the death was suspicious in nature, then the Medical Examiner/Coroner would in all likelihood order an autopsy.
- Out-Of-State Death
If the death takes place outside of Pennsylvania, there is no need to contact a local funeral director in that state where the death occurs. Doing so invariably results in additional expenses for the family. We can make all the necessary arrangements through funeral directors and professional associations we work with throughout the country. All you need to do is to call us at 570-562-3530, and we will handle the rest of the details.
- Pre Planned or Advance Arrangements
If the death of a family member is anticipated, it is wise to begin thinking about the final arrangements in advance. We frequently speak with the family prior to the death to begin the process of gathering the needed information and discussing the services. In this way, the family is not overwhelmed with making numerous important decisions at the time of death. To begin the arrangement process, just give us a call. Alternatively, you can start the process by filling out our on-line form.
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About Death Certificates
The death certificate is the legal record of the fact of death of an individual. Funeral directors are responsible for getting the original certificate completed. As a permanent legal record, the certificate is extremely important to the decedent’s family. It also is needed for a variety of medical and health-related research efforts. The death certificate provides important information about the decedent, such as age, sex, race, date of death, his or her parents, and, if married, the name of the spouse; information on circumstances and cause of death; and final disposition. This information is used in the application for insurance benefits, settlement of pension claims, and transfer of title of real and personal property. The certificate is considered prima facie evidence of the fact of death. It can therefore be introduced in court as evidence when a question about the death arises. Statistical data from death certificates are used to identify public health problems and measure the results of programs established to alleviate these problems. These data are a necessary foundation on which to base effective public health programs. Health departments could not perform their duties without such data. Mortality statistics are of considerable value to individual physicians and to medical science because they can be used to identify disease etiology and evaluate diagnostic techniques. Demographers use mortality statistics in combination with fatality statistics to estimate and project population sizes, which are important in forecasting and program planning.
Certified copies of the death certificate are legal documents issued through the Commonwealth of PA, Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Records with local offices located in the State Building in Scranton or through our local registrar. The Commonwealth charges $ 9.00 per certified copy.
Because they are legal documents, it is extremely important that you provide us with the correct information when we prepare the original certificate. Please note that photocopies without the raised seal from the Commonwealth are not accepted as legal documents.
After the original death certificate has been signed by the attending physician or medical examiner/coroner and completed by Semian Funeral Directors, it is filed with the Bureau of Vital Records or our local registrar. Generally, it takes from 2 to 3 business days for the official death certificate to be filed. Certified death certificates can be issued by any Bureau of Vital Records office within the Commonwealth.
The most expedient way to obtain certified copies of the death certificate is to call Semian Funeral Directors. Alternately, certified copies of the death certificate can be ordered through the Commonwealth’s web-sitehttp://www.dsf.health.state.pa.us/health/cwp/view.asp?a=168&Q=229939. Whether obtained through our office, in person or through the mail, death certificates must be paid for prior to being issued. In Pennsylvania, death certificates are not public records. By law, only immediate family members and other interested legal parties such as attorneys and funeral homes can obtain death certificates. Once filed, Semian Funeral Directors do maintain a copy of the original death certificate.
In order to assist you in ascertaining the number of certified copies needed, we have provided a worksheet listing some areas requiring this document:
- Life Insurance Policy (ies)
- Pension, IRA and Other Benefits
- Accounts at Banks and Credit Unions
- Stocks and Bonds
- Union Benefits
- Title and Deeds to Property
- Vehicle Registration and Title Transfer
- Attorneys and CPA
- Home Mortgage(s)
- Other Insurance (Credit Cards, Automobile)
- For Your Own Records
- Lackawanna County Veterans Administration
*You do not need to provide the Social Security or Federal Veterans Administration a certified copy of the death certificate to receive benefits. We notify these two organizations on your behalf as a part of our services.