Widow forced to verify her husband’s death via video call because the family doctor would not visit

Widow forced to verify her husband’s death via video call because the family doctor would not visit

Widow forced to verify her husband’s death via video call because the family doctor would not visit

Smartphone - SOPA Images / Getty Images

Smartphone – SOPA Images / Getty Images

An elderly widow was forced to certify her husband’s death via video call after a family doctor said they “don’t go out anymore”.

The patient, who was 80 years old and dying of cancer, passed away at home shortly after 4:00 pm on a weekday earlier this month. His wife, who had taken care of him at home, called his family doctor and was told that the doctor would “be in touch shortly”.

But when the doctor called back, more than an hour and a half later, he said he wouldn’t come home.

Moira Evans, a friend of the widow who was there at the time and spoke to The Telegraph, said: “She then sent a link to a video chat … [and said] ‘keep the camera on the corpse’. My friend at this point said ‘I can’t, can you please Moira?’, And so I did. “

The GP explained that “they no longer go out to certify death, that you have to do it alone on a smartphone,” he said.

“Verification should be done in person”

Temporary measures to complete medical certificates of cause of death during the Covid pandemic were lifted in March of this year.

The current official requirements, established by the HM Passport Office, state: “Seeing the deceased after death (ie seeing the body) must be in person and includes verification of death.”

A NHS spokesperson said: “The verification of death should be done in person by a trained healthcare professional in a sensitive and compassionate way.”

Some patients have struggled to access their GP since the start of the pandemic, with some practices still restricting patients from having face-to-face appointments.

The latest official figures show that around 65% of the attending physician’s appointments were held in person in July, the highest percentage since March 2020, when it was 66%. However, the figure is still well below the pre-pandemic average of around 80%.

‘Completely scandalous’

Dennis Reed, of the Silver Voices campaign group, said it was “utterly disconcerting” that a vulnerable person was asked to take back her deceased husband.

“I wonder how accurate this kind of thing is,” he said. “You are practically asking the individual to certify their partner’s death and, in a traumatic situation, this is completely outrageous.

“What if there were some faint signs of life that could be brought about by someone who is actually visiting?”

He said the ordeal showed “just how impersonal the NHS is becoming,” adding, “There seems to be almost no limit on what needs to be done virtually rather than through personal touch.”

Ms. Evans said she was asked to put the phone close to the man’s face and the doctor then asked, “Can you hold it a little lower so I can see his chest?”

Less than a minute after the video call started, the doctor said, “OK, I’ve seen enough,” he added.

He then explained that they would issue the death certificate and that someone from the medical center would get in touch to find out when they could pick it up.

They were then able to tell the gravediggers that the doctor had seen the man on video and they could come and collect the body.

“The procedure of having to do this on video … we were blown away,” said Ms. Evans. “Just assume that when someone dies in your house, someone will come out and … have some compassion in there.”

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