The release of the remains and funeral arrangements

Funeral arrangements should not be made until the body is released or the Coroner has indicated when release will occur. This is important at all times, but particularly at bank holiday weekends and public holidays. Cremation cannot take place until the appropriate Coroner’s Certificate is issued.

Where a death occurs in a house or a nursing home, funeral directors should not remove the body to a funeral parlour without establishing that a Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death is available. This may necessitate speaking directly to the doctor or the Coroner’s office as appropriate. Death should have been pronounced by a registered medical practitioner, e.g., the family doctor, a hospital doctor etc.

Usually the body is released to the next-of-kin shortly after the post mortem examination. In rare cases, for example where there is an ongoing criminal investigation into the death, it may be necessary to retain the body for a longer period of time.

Where an inquest is to be held, the Coroner is usually able to allow burial or cremation once the post-mortem examination of the body has been completed. 

Certain documents will be issued by the Coroner where a body is to be cremated or removed out of the country.

Cremation

Cremation is an alternative to burial when someone dies. All Christian denominations and most other religious sects around the world permit cremation. Some religions (for example, Orthodox Judaism and Islam) do not.

There are four crematoria (that is, four separate crematoriums) in Ireland, three of which are located in Dublin and the fourth is in Cork. Access to these cremation facilities is not, however, restricted to people living in Dublin or Cork. Anyone may arrange for a cremation to take place in any of these crematoria.

If you wish to arrange a cremation you should contact a funeral director who will ensure that the statutory (or legal) requirements are met. Before cremation, forms must be signed by a medical referee who must be satisfied that the attending doctor viewed the body before and after the death, completed the medical certificate and the necessary form stating that there is no reason why the body should not be cremated. The attending doctor is required to examine whether or not the death should be notified to the Coroner.

There may be difficulties arranging an immediate cremation if the cause of death is unclear. A Coroner may in this case complete a Coroner's Cremation Certificate which will allow the cremation to go ahead. In some cases, a Garda Superintendent has the power to stop a cremation.

Criminal Investigations and Second Post Mortems

If there is a criminal investigation, it may be necessary to have a second post mortem examination or further investigations, and the release of the body and the funeral arrangements may be delayed because of this.