Busy GPs view bodies in car parks

DEAD bodies are being driven to car parks and back lanes for viewing by overworked GPs who baulk at attending funeral homes to sign cause of death and cremation certificates.

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After a person dies their treating doctor is obligated to fill out the relevant paperwork and declare them deceased before that person is transported to a funeral home.

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But elderly residents who die in retirement villages can be legally declared ‘‘life extinct’’ by registered nurses.

‘‘This practice was introduced so doctors didn’t have to go out in the early hours of the morning to do it,’’ one Hunter funeral director, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

But once a person is pronounced dead and taken to a mortuary the Australian Medical Association requires their doctor to view the body, sign on a cause of death or fill out a cremation certificate.

The director said in some instances, rather than viewing the bodies at an appropriate location, such as a mortuary, the doctors ask for the bodies to be brought over to their practice.

The bodies were transported by vans with the deceased placed in a body bag on a stretcher.

The deceased person was often viewed in a public car park at the surgery and in some cases on main roads.

‘‘If people knew their deceased mother or grandmother was being viewed in an open car park they would find it disgusting,’’ the director said.

‘‘It’s grossly inappropriate and just the height of arrogance that this has to happen.’’

Hunter Urban Medicare Local chief executive Mark Foster said both general practitioners and funeral directors were under significant time pressures.

‘‘It becomes a choice of using the time available to either attend to a waiting room full of patients or travel, sometimes significant distances, to the funeral home to view the body,’’ he said.

‘‘We are aware of instances where a funeral director has offered to bring a deceased former patient’s body to a chosen location for viewing by their GP and where this has occurred it was always done with respect and discretion.’’

A spokesman for the Funeral Association of NSW said while the practice was inappropriate it had become part of the job.

‘‘A funeral director’s primary concern is that the deceased is treated with dignity and all due care is shown,’’ he said.

‘‘Having the body viewed in car parks is very unacceptable but unfortunately sometimes it’s what has to happen for the funeral to go ahead.’’

The spokesman said the issue had become more common in large regions such as the Hunter.

Funeral directors who voiced displeasure said they feared nothing would be done until formal complaints were made.

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