Timeline: The Emergency Department – History and Examination

Once death has been confirmed and verified, the following steps are mostly likely to be carried out and led by the Paediatric Team. However, it is useful to have an awareness of the steps in the process, in order to support it or to help answer questions from the family.

As soon as possible after arrival at the hospital, a detailed history should be taken from the parents/carers and the child should be examined fully by a consultant paediatrician before the body is taken to the mortuary. This is because findings such as skin marks, livido and bruising may change before the post-mortem examination and these may be lost if not documented.

Fig.3 Lividity is seen as red areas in the first 2-6 hours after death. Image courtesy of Susan Angus.

This is usually documented with body charts (see below), and the police SIO is usually present.

Mementoes such as hand and footprints, a lock of hair and photographs may be offered, providing it does not interfere with any investigation. If the parents are separated, both parents should be offered a memory box.

Learning bite

It is normally appropriate to allow the family to hold and spend time with their child once death has been confirmed, but they should not be left alone unsupervised with the child.